Amnesty Int’l says Cuban detainees left in ‘unfair legal limbo’

Jamaica Observer

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sonia Garro

LONDON (CMC) – The London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, says the trial of three people arrested in Cuba during a government crackdown on peaceful protests has been postponed for a fourth time in two and a half years, leaving the detainees in an “unfair legal limbo.”

According to Amnesty, Sonia Garro Alfonso, a member of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), a protest group, her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and their neighbour Eugenio Hernández Hernández have been in pre-trial detention since March 18, 2012.

Their trial was due to start on Friday but was once again postponed without explanation, said the human rights group, adding that no new trial date has been set.

“The Cuban authorities’ continual postponing of the trial without explanation raises concerns that the charges against the three may be politically motivated,” said James Burke, Caribbean Researcher, Amnesty International.

“They should now be released immediately and be allowed to await their trial outside of prison.”

Amnesty International has been calling for the trial to go ahead in accordance with international standards, including the right of the accused to call defence witnesses and to challenge the evidence against them.

It said all three were arrested on March 18, 2012 during a demonstration by a group of government supporters who gathered in front of Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González’s house.

Amnesty International said the government supporters, helped by state security officials, were attempting to prevent the couple from participating in in events to commemorate the anniversary of the crackdown on dissidence, which started on March 18m 2003 and led to the imprisonment of 75 peaceful activists.

They were charged by the public prosecutor in September 2013 with public disorder  and attempted murder .

Sonia Garro Alfonso faces the additional charge of using violence or intimidation against a state official.

Their trial was postponed previously on three occasions, in November 2013, June 2014 and October 2014, “with no reason ever given for each postponement,” Amnesty International said.

“This morning across Cuba, members of the Ladies in White have been peacefully demonstrating in front of their local courts on behalf of Sonia Garro Alfonso, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and Eugenio Hernández Hernández,” the statement said.

It said there have been reports of arrests of members in the city of Matanzas and the town of Palma Soriano in the province of Santiago de Cuba.

There were also reports on Thursday that officials from the Department of State Security summoned a number of members of the Ladies in White or visited their homes “in order to threaten them not to attend demonstrations today,” Amnesty International said.

With this latest development, the human rights group, has called on Cuban authorities to “cease their continual harassment and arbitrary detention of the Ladies in White and allow them to carry out their peaceful activities without fear of reprisals.”

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