Two dissident artists have confronted their first day of trial in Cuba after being detained practically a 12 months in the past, in an ongoing judicial course of that human rights teams have labelled a “farce” and a “circus”.
Police and safety forces surrounded the court docket in Havana on Monday, whereas a small group of relations was allowed entry to the courthouse, an official from Cuba’s Worldwide Press Middle instructed the Reuters information company.
The activists, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo, are outstanding members of the Havana-based San Isidro Motion, an artists collective that led a number of protests earlier than lots of the group left Cuba, alleging repression.
Otero Alcantara, 34, is accused of defaming the nationwide flag, contempt and public dysfunction, and faces seven years in jail, based on a March 8 court docket submitting seen by Reuters.
Castillo, 39, a rapper often known as Osorbo, has additionally been charged with assault and faces 10 years in jail, the court docket doc exhibits.
Representatives from the Havana embassies of a number of European nations, together with the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden, stood huddled a block from the court docket awaiting entry for practically two hours after asking to enter and observe the proceedings.
“We weren’t authorised to enter the courthouse,” mentioned a consultant of the German embassy earlier than departing. The consultant requested to not be named and declined to say why the group had been denied entry to the courthouse.
“We wish human rights to be revered all over the place and nations,” the diplomat mentioned.
Each Otero Alcantara and Castillo appeared within the music video for “Patria y Vida”, a defiant hip-hop tune that turned the unofficial “anthem” for widespread anti-government protests that broke out in Cuba final July.
The Cuban authorities didn’t instantly reply to a request by Reuters for touch upon the trials, or say why entry to the courthouse was restricted.
Cuban state media, together with the ruling Communist Social gathering newspaper Granma, have accused Castillo and Otero Alcantara’s San Isidro Motion of being a part of a US-directed “comfortable coup” try – a cost the group denies.
The instances of the 2 males have turn out to be a lightning rod for activists and human rights teams, who allege Cuba has ramped up repression within the wake of final 12 months’s protests.
Human Rights Watch final week referred to as the trials a “farce”, whereas Amnesty Worldwide referred to as them a “circus”.
Cuba has mentioned these detained earlier than and after the July protests have obtained truthful trials in accordance with Cuban regulation.
In response to an audio recording launched final week on social media by fellow activists, authorities supplied to launch Otero Alcantara if he left the nation, however he refused.
Cuban artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo are set to face trial on Monday.
Involved governments, particularly from Latin America & Europe, ought to monitor the trial and name for the artists’ launch.
— Juan Pappier (@JuanPappierHRW) May 26, 2022
Otero Alcantara additionally was the main target of protests by different artists following his arrest final 12 months. He launched a starvation strike and was hospitalised to demand the return of works that authorities had confiscated when he was detained.
In a present of help, about 20 different outstanding artists demanded that their works be faraway from exhibition on the Nationwide Museum of Positive Arts, which rejected the decision.
The streets outdoors the courthouse on Monday had been in any other case quiet all through the day. A number of activists and buddies of the lads alleged on social media that they had been below watch by state safety and had been prohibited from leaving their houses.
Maritza Herrera, 66, mentioned she got here to point out her help for her buddies Otero Alcantara and Castillo. She mentioned others had been prevented from doing so, or didn’t dare.
“They know that in the event that they arrive right here, they are going to be put in a patrol automotive and brought away to a [police] station. That’s why they’re not right here,” she mentioned.