A provincial court in Havana, Cuba has sentenced four dissidents to three to five years in prison for distributing pamphlets containing anti-government information.
Family members and supporters gathered outside the courthouse where the trial took place, including Vidiet Martinez, whose brother was among the four dissidents. “They didn’t consider anything (in the trial). (The dissidents) didn’t commit any crime, they didn’t set off any bombs, they didn’t attack anyone. They simply protested because of their ideals,” Martinez told Reuters.
Relatives of the four men said Luis Enrique Labrador, 33, David Piloto, 40, and Walfrido Rodriguez, 42, were sentenced to five years in prison, while Yordani Martinez, 23, was sentenced to three. The men were declared guilty of “disrespect” and “public disorder.”
Government sympathizers stood nearby, shouting that the four men were “counter-revolutionaries” who “attacked a policeman.”
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an organization that is tolerated by the government, reported that the four dissidents were detained in January for distributing pamphlets containing slogans against the Castro regime. The government dubbed them “mercenaries” of the United States.
Human rights groups on the island have warned that in recent years the Cuban government has opted to substitute long prison sentences for dissidents with brief detentions.
“Frankly five years in prison is way too much for something that in any other country is part of daily life,” the spokesman for the commission, Elizardo Sanchez said.
In mid-2010 the Cuban government released over 100 political prisoners, including 52 dissidents rounded up in the Black Spring of 2003 who were given sentences from six to 28 years. The decision to release them came after an historic agreement between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government, in which Spain participated as a mediator.