- Title: CUBA: CUBAN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS PRISON SENTENCES FOR CUBAN DISSIDENTS
- Date: 23rd June 2003
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PHOTOS OF RAUL RIVERO (2 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 8th July 2003 13:00
- Location: HAVANA, CUBA
- Country: Cuba
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4YBWU4DKPEJFUHC1T5IOEUMFG
- Story Text: Cuba's Supreme Court has upheld prison sentences for dozens of dissidents jailed in April.
In spite of calls for clemency and growing tensions with western countries, the Supreme Court of Cuba has denied appeals for 75 jailed dissidents. The dissidents were sentenced to an average 19 years in prison after being accused of conspiring with the United States to overthrow the Communist-run government.
The 20-year sentence given to perhaps the best known of the imprisoned opponents of Cuban President Fidel Castro, independent journalist and poet Raul Rivero, was upheld.
"It is hugely arbitrary," said Blanca Reyes, wife of Raul Rivera who was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"It's a crime that has no name, this is a man who writes, that's all he does, and for writing what he thinks...if a lawyer would take a look at this it would become clear that he is completely innocent."
Cuba has faced widespread condemnation since Castro ordered a crackdown on dissidents and a moratorium on executions was ended when three men who tried to hijack a small ferry to Florida were slain.
"One supposes that trials are to impart justice," said Osvaldo Paya, the dissident leader, "but, in Cuba, it is to impart injustice. These are severely grave actions. In the first place, these are sentences that were given out in summary trials, false trials. They are following orders. For that reason, they have no moral or legal substance."
Governments, international organizations and personalities, including Pope John Paul, have called for the dissidents' release.
The EU decided this month to limit high-level government visits and reduce the participation of its member states in cultural events in Cuba. Washington has said it is considering new steps against Cuba in response to the crackdown.
But Havana has threatened to throw more opponents behind bars for maintaining contact with diplomats.
Castro, speaking two weeks ago as relations with the 15-member European bloc fell to their lowest level ever, warned that, if dissidents tried to make European embassies into "centres to conspire," Cuban laws would be vigorously applied against them.
European diplomats and dissidents said they would continue their contacts, despite the threats.
The majority of the 75 dissidents are being held in isolation cells at maximum security prisons under "inhumane conditions," the Cuban Human Rights Commission said.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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