Cuba: Detainees left in limbo as trial postponed yet again

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, said Amnesty International today. 

Sonia Garro Alfonso, who is 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 18 March 2012. Their trial was finally due to start this morning but was once again postponed without explanation. 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. They should now be released immediately and be allowed to await their trial outside of prison,” said James Burke, Caribbean Researcher, Amnesty International. 

Amnesty International had 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. 

All three people were arrested on 18 March 2012 during a demonstration by a group of government supporters that had gathered in front of Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González’s house. 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 18 March 2003 and led to the imprisonment of 75 peaceful activists. 

They were charged by the public prosecutor in September 2013 with public disorder (desórdenes públicos) and attempted murder (asesinato en grado de tentativa). Sonia Garro Alfonso faces the additional charge of using violence or intimidation against a state official (atentado). Their trial has been postponed previously on three occasions, in November 2013, June 2014 and October 2014, with no reason ever given for each postponement. 

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. 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 yesterday 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 calls on the 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.