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 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...
£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...
£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...