Cuban Courts Convict Opposition Artists

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban courts sentenced opposition artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maikel Castillo, respectively, to five and nine years in prison, the Attorney General’s Office reported Friday.

Otero Alcántara and Castillo, better known by his alias “Osorbo”, captured international attention due to the request of international organizations and the United States administration for their release under the argument that they are victims of political persecution, but the authorities defended the actions of the court alleging that the law was applied to them as to any citizen for common crimes.

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According to a statement from the Prosecutor’s Office published in the official media, the judges sentenced Otero Alcántara to five years as the perpetrator of the crimes of outrage against national symbols, contempt and public disorder, and “Osorbo” to nine years for attack and defamation of the institutions, among other penal figures.

The oral hearings were held on May 30 and 31, The Associated Press confirmed, and at that time the prosecutors demanded seven years for Otero Alcántara and 10 years for “Osorbo”, indicated friends of the artists.

“During the trial sessions the defendants were heard; in their presence, the testimonial, documentary and expert evidence proposed by the Prosecutor and the lawyers who represented them were practiced, ”said the text of the judicial unit.

In the same process, Félix Roque Delgado was sentenced to five years in prison and two women who were sentenced to three years of correctional work. These three people would have beaten a policeman to avoid the arrest of “Osorbo”.

Otero Alcántara, 34, became known after carrying out performances with the Cuban flag, for example in the bathroom -some considered disrespectful on the island- and for leading a movement of opposition artists called San Isidro that in 2020 starred in a demonstration that concluded with an unusual sit-in of artists in front of the Ministry of Culture.

“Osorbo”, a 39-year-old rapper, is one of the composers of a song with a strong political connotation called “Patria y Vida” that won a Latin Grammy award this year and became a kind of anthem for critics of the government. of the island after the unusual protests of July 2021. The title is a twist on the official phrase “Homeland or Death!”.

The case is not related to sanctions on the demonstrators of the protests of July 11 and 12, 2021 -in the midst of the pandemic and in the framework of a strong economic crisis, shortages and blackouts- and whose processes are under development.

Otero Alcántara was arrested before arriving at the July demonstrations and “Osorbo” has been in prison since May 2021. The crimes they are accused of occurred in April 2021.

Later, the national news on Cuban television showed the first recorded images of the process in which Otero Alcántara and “Osorbo” could be seen for a few seconds, dressed in the dark gray prison uniform and with their hair cut. There were also shots of the other defendants.

In the television report, “Osorbo” is seen standing reading a message of recognition to the court. “The room for the most part, especially the presidency of said court, has been quite professional,” he said.

Images of the brawl were also broadcast in which “Osorbo” and other people, including women, attacked and beat a police officer in the middle of the street and to the side of his patrol car.

After learning of the sanctions, organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) reacted negatively.

“Both Luis Manuel and Maykel are artists who have used art as a means to express their opinions about the social, political and economic conditions in Cuba. They are two emblematic examples of how the government of (President) Miguel Díaz-Canel uses the judicial system to criminalize critical voices,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at AI.

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Andrea Rodríguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

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