Cuban dissidents are sentenced to 25 years in prison
Tuesday 08 April 2003
The first Cuban dissidents to be tried after a round-up of about 80 opponents of Fidel Castro's government last month received prison sentences of between 15 and 25 years yesterday, prompting condemnations from the US government and international free-speech groups.
The first batch of convictions, believed to number about a dozen, included one prominent political leader, Hector Palacios, and two well-known journalists, Raul Rivero and Ricardo Gonzalez. The trials, expected to conclude this week, are being held behind closed doors in what the US State Department has characterised a "kangaroo court".
News of the first sentences were announced by family members. "This is an injustice," said Gisela Delgado, the wife of Mr Palacios, and she told reporters that her husband had been given a 25-year term for collaborating with American diplomats to undermine the state. "We are as Cuban as members of the Communist Party," she said.
Last month's arrests constituted the largest crackdown on dissent Cuba has seen for many years. They were made apparently in reaction to the activities of James Cason, the new US head of mission in Cuba, who has openly courted dissidents and delivered vehement anti-Castro speeches in their presence.
Mr Cason, who heads the so-called US Interests Section, particularly upset the authorities with a meeting held at his house in February in which he told the assembled company: "The Cuban government is afraid: afraid of freedom of conscience, afraid of freedom of expression, afraid of human rights."
Mr Castro described the meeting as a "shameless and defiant provocation" and threatened to close the US mission altogether. Instead, he ordered the arrests of dissidents and imposed new travel restrictions on US diplomats wishing to leave Havana.
The United States has accused the Cuban government of taking advantage of the war in Iraq to move against its opponents while world opinion is focused elsewhere. The Cubans have accused the Americans, in turn, of openly attempting to foment "regime change" in Cuba without respect for diplomatic etiquette.
Until Mr Cason arrived in Cuba, dissidents were given a certain degree of latitude to publish independent viewpoints and to organise their own unions and political parties. According to reports in the US media, Mr Cason has not only broadened contacts with dissidents, but has also organised the distribution of anti-Castro books and documents and handed out shortwave radios to enable Cubans to listen to anti-government broadcasts from Florida.
Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Mr Castro urging him to free 27 independent writers and reporters caught up in the crackdown and to return confiscated computers, research materials and other equipment seized from their homes.
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Mafia's wall of silence broken: Victim of Cosa Nostra's extortion rackets in its Corleone heartland co-operates with authorities for the first time ever
Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Sir David Attenborough interview: The one question about life that still baffles him
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Louise Mensch says 'F**K YOU' in explosive tweets about David Cameron, Saudi Embassy and the Queen over King Abdullah tributes
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...
£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...