The Cuban prosecutor says that Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo will be given five and nine years, respectively.
A Cuban court has sentenced two dissident artists to nine and five years in prison, the government announced, in a high-profile case that human rights groups have labeled a “sham” violating freedom of expression.
The activists, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo, are prominent members of the Havana-based San Isidro Movement, an artists’ collective that led several protests over two years. Much of the group has since left Cuba on charges of government repression.
According to a statement from the Cuban prosecutor’s office on Friday, Otero Alcantara was sentenced to five years in prison for defamation of the national flag, contempt, and public disorder.
Castillo was sentenced to nine years for similar crimes and assault.
Both men, considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, the international human rights organization, have spent months behind bars, widely condemned and called for release.
“This is a blow to artistic freedom in Cuba, and to the artists and activists in Cuba and around the world who have fought for the right to express themselves…” https://t.co/XLidvH8G0J@pen_int @PEN_LAC @PENamerica #FreeLuisMa #FreeMaykel
— Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) (@AtRiskArtists) June 24, 2022
Juan Pappier, a senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter that Friday’s ruling is “a sham that openly violates freedom of expression and association.”
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Maykel and Luis Manuel,” said Papier.
In a statement, PEN America also denounced the ruling, saying it is “a blow to artistic freedom in Cuba,” as well as to Cuban artists and activists in the country and abroad “who have fought for the right to express themselves.” “.
“The Cuban government may try to wipe out the independent expression on the island, but they won’t succeed,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America.
Otero Alcantara and Castillo appeared in the music video for “Patria y Vida,” a defiant hip-hop song that became the unofficial “anthem” for widespread anti-government protests that erupted in Cuba last July.
The foreign press, human rights groups, and diplomats were barred from attending the courtroom proceedings.
Cuban state media Friday showed some of the evidence outlined in the trials and footage of the proceedings, calling the men’s actions “common crimes” and rejecting the views of rights groups.
“They are in no way political prisoners or prisoners of conscience,” the ruling communist party newspaper Granma said in a story, citing prosecutors who had tried the case. “They are not here because of their way of thinking, nor are they charged with crimes against state security, but rather for going against the social order.”
Cuban state media have previously mentioned Castillo and Otero Alcantara’s San Isidro movement as part of a US-led “soft coup,” allegations they deny.
State media said the two men have ten days to appeal their verdict.