Nearly 60 people have been prosecuted in relation to unprecedented anti-government protests that broke out in Cuba earlier this month, a senior Cuban official has said, vowing that due process was being followed amid international criticism.
The cases were over minor charges, and the total number of people detained has not been released amid complaints from relatives seeking information about loved ones.
“Until yesterday, 19 judicial processes had reached the municipal courts of the country – cases involving 59 people accused of committing alleged crimes (during) these disturbances,” Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Court, told reporters on Saturday.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in several locations, including the capital Havana, on July 11 and 12 to demand government action amid an economic crisis and food shortages made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
The protesters shouted “Freedom”, “Down with the dictatorship” and “We’re hungry” in what were the largest protests on the island in decades.
Reed Lindsay, a Havana-based journalist with news outlet Belly of the Beast, said Ferro’s news conference was “a response to a lot of the international press coverage, a lot of what’s going on on social media” about the detained protesters.
“Some of the accusations against the government are that no lawyer has been provided to people who have gone to trial, that these have been summary trials – and the government did push back against that,” Lindsay told Al Jazeera.
“The president of the Supreme Court said that they were not summary trials – that they were brief trials – but that they were sort of still in process,” said Lindsay, who added that Ferro also notably said: “Mistakes may have been made and they could be corrected in the judicial process.”
“It left open the possibility for some of these maybe more minor offences, for people to be released,” Lindsay said.
Hundreds of people were arrested during the demonstrations and many face charges of contempt, public disorder, vandalism and propagation of the coronavirus pandemic for allegedly marching without face masks.
Independent observers and activists have published lists of those arrested – there are at least 600 names.
The UN’s human rights chief on July 16 called on Cuba to release protesters and several journalists who were also arrested.
In a statement, Michelle Bachelet slammed the Cuban government’s response, saying “it is particularly worrying” that those arrested included “individuals allegedly held incommunicado and people whose whereabouts are unknown”.
Ferro on Saturday said a faster trial system was being used to prosecute the accused but made assurances that due process was being followed.