HAVANA (AP) – The first dissidents tried in a massive crackdown on Cuba’s opposition will spend between 15 and 25 years in prison after being convicted of collaborating with American diplomats to undermine the socialist state, family members said yesterday.
Prosecutors originally sought life sentences for at least a dozen of the 80 defendants, but no such sentences were among those announced yesterday.
Opposition political party leader Hector Palacios, among those originally recommended for a life sentence, received a 25-year sentence, said his wife, Gisela Delgado.
“This is an injustice,” Delgado said after leaving the courthouse. “We are as Cuban as members of the Communist Party.”
Independent journalist Raul Rivero received the 20-year sentence sought by prosecutors, family members said.
The communist government accuses the dissidents of being in the pay of Washington and collaborating with U.S. diplomats here to harm Cuba and its economy.
The last of the summary trials, which began Thursday, were expected to end yesterday, with all sentences announced before the end of this week.
The crackdown has been condemned by international human rights groups and press organizations, with the U.S. State Department terming the proceedings a “kangaroo court.”
Those arrested in last month’s crackdown include more than two dozen independent journalists, leaders of independent labor unions and opposition political parties, and pro-democracy activists involved in a reform effort known as the Varela Project.
The crackdown ended several years of relative government tolerance for the opposition. It began when Cuban officials criticized the head of the American mission in Havana, James Cason, for actively supporting the island’s opposition.