The Cuban government said on Tuesday that some 790 people were being charged for sedition, public disorder and other crimes, after they took part in rare protests last year.
Among those being tried are 55 teenagers from the ages of 16 to 18, of which 28 are already in custody. Under Cuban criminal law, anyone over the age of 16 is considered an adult.
Cuba’s prosecutor’s office also said 27 children under 16 took part in the protests and had been disciplined, with 10 sent to “comprehensive training and behavioral schools” and the other 17 given “personalized attention in their school.”
Human rights groups have said the clampdown shows how Cuba’s judicial system is routinely used to crush dissent. But authorities claim that US-based opposition groups are responsible for fomenting unrest through social media.
Cubans took to the streets in July of last year, in a rare show of public discontent, to protest blackouts, economic hardship and the tightly-controlled political system. They were the biggest demonstrations in decades in a nation where freedom of assembly is heavily restricted.
Calls for more protests were repeated in the weeks and months following the civil uprising. A group of artists called Archipelago, led by Yunior Garcia Aguilera, tried to organize the protests into a movement. But in November, a heavy crackdown prevented the assembly and Garcia Aguilera abruptly left the country.
The US Embassy in Havana criticized the Cuban government for “disproportionate sentences against peaceful and innocent youth.”
“They cannot crush the people’s demands for a better future,” the Embassy wrote on Twitter.
At least 39 protesters will face trial this week and could be sentenced to up to 26 years in prison, the Justicia 11J, a human rights group that monitors the cases, said on Monday.
The attorney general’s office said the state was levying charges in conjunction with the level of violence each individual demonstrated. These acts included protesters throwing stones at hospitals, gasoline stations and other facilities, as well as looting.
“The public prosecutor’s office has received… 117 preparatory files relating to the most serious acts, with 790 people indited for acts of vandalism against authorities, people and assets, as well as serious disturbances of order,” the office said in a statement published in official newspaper Granma.
Some 172 have already been convicted and sentenced, according to the attorney general’s office.
jcg/rt (EFE, AFP, AP)