Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Protesters were detained during unprecedented July protests against food shortages, rising prices and other grievances.

At least 57 protesters were arrested in Cuba last year wave of unprecedented protests are scheduled to stand trial this week, their family members said.

Family members said Tuesday that some of the protesters face up to 30 years in prison.

Roxana Garcia, the sister of 24-year-old accused Andy Dunier Garcia, said she was told the hearings were expected to last three to four days. Her brother is charged in Santa Clara with public disorder, as well as assault and contempt of authority.

She said the defense attorney seemed to be doing a good job, adding that the only witnesses against the accused were “the same police who beat them”.

In the Cuban capital, Havana, Yaquelin Cruz said her 20-year-old son, Dariel Cruz, was facing a prosecution request for a 15-year sentence for rioting – an attempt to overthrow a legitimate government . She said her son was recently jailed.

Police hold protester in CubaPolice in civilian clothes held protesters during a July demonstration at high prices, food shortages and power outages [File: Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo]

Family members said 21 people would be charged in the eastern city of Holguin, 20 in Havana and 16 in Santa Clara.

Demonstrations erupt over Cuba 11 and 12 July while thousands took to the streets in protest against food shortages, rising prices and economic hardship. Some also called for a change in government.

Officials initially appeared offensive, but later moved to detain hundreds of protesters. At least one person was killed and several shops and vehicles were vandalized or burned over the two days.

Cuban authorities have never released an official number of arrests made during the protests, although court officials said in August that there were 23 quick trials of 67 accused facing fewer charges, such as public disorder.

Prosecutors have since formalized more serious charges, such as rioting, against other defendants, says Salome Garcia of Justice 11J – a group of members in Cuba and abroad who are trying to track down the cases of those detained.

The organization said it had confirmed 1,334 arrests, 223 convictions for various charges and 231 others standing trial on charges. It said 98 people were fined.

The group said the initial detainees included 48 people under the age of 18 – the age of criminal responsibility is 16 in Cuba – although several of them have since been released.

Judge 11J’s list of cases indicates that some in Holguin face 30 years in prison for the same charge that Dariel Cruz faced, an attempt to overthrow a legitimate government.

Several family members said they were informed that only one family member of each defendant would be admitted to the courtroom.

Cuban authorities acknowledged that some of the allegations made during the protests were justified.

But they accused the United States of being the real power behind the protests, which were apparently partially mobilized over recently authorized social media networks.

Washington denied that it played a role in the protests, and later imposed sanctions on Cuban officials who they said were complicit in Havana’s suppression of the protests.

Last week, US President Joe Biden’s administration eight Cuban government officials banned of the country come in over allegations that they were involved in the abuse of protesters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the targeted Cuban officials of being involved “in attempts to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression, unjust detention and severe imprisonment”.

Blinken said about 600 Cuban protesters remain in custody, including some who have seen their health deteriorate and not have access to proper food or medicine.

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