Dozens of Cuban protesters face trial this week: relatives

At least 57 protesters will stand trial this week, relatives of Cubans arrested at the island’s largest demonstrations in decades say

Havana — At least 57 protesters are scheduled to stand trial this week, some facing up to 30 years in prison, relatives of Cubans arrested at the island’s largest demonstrations in decades said.

Relatives told The Associated Press that three class trials are planned, with 21 indicted in the eastern city of Holguin, 20 in Havana and 16 in Santa Clara.

When thousands of Cubans took to the streets in cities across the island on July 11-12 to protest against commodity shortages, power outages and economic hardships, officials initially seemed to be caught off guard — and some called for a change of government.

Cuban authorities acknowledged some of the complaints were justified, but said the United States was the real force behind the protests, which appeared to be mobilized in part through recently authorized social media networks.

At least one person was killed, and several shops and vehicles were damaged or burned.

Although court officials said in August that there were 23 expedited trials of 67 defendants facing lesser charges such as public disturbance, officials never gave an official number of arrests during the protests.

Since then, prosecutors have formally charged other defendants with more serious charges, such as sedition, said Salome Garcia of Justice 11J, a group that has members in Cuba and abroad trying to track detainees’ cases.

The group said 1,334 people had been confirmed in custody, 223 had been convicted on various charges and another 231 faced charges. It said 98 people had been fined.

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

Roxana Garcia, the sister of defendant Andy Dunier Garcia, 24, said she was told the trial was expected to last three to four days. Her brother was charged in Santa Clara with disturbing public order and assault and contempt for authority.

Defense attorneys appeared to be doing a good job, she said, adding that the only witnesses against the defendants were “the police who beat them.”

In Havana, Yaquelín Cruz said her 20-year-old son Dariel Cruz was facing indictment for 15 years in prison for sedition – an attempt to overthrow the legitimate government. She said her son was recently stabbed in prison.

Justice 11J’s list of cases showed that some of Olgin’s men faced 30 years in prison for the same charge.

Several relatives said they had been told that one family member of each accused would be allowed into the courtroom.

Government authorities did not immediately respond to requests for information about the case.

The United States has denied launching the protests and responded to the Cuban crackdown on demonstrations by imposing sanctions on officials allegedly involved.