The truth about the trials and the treatment of prisoners

Campaign News | Thursday, 25 March 2004

A statement from the Cuban mission to the UN

March 25

The Truth about the Trials

Twenty-nine trials were held in Cuba, in different provinces across the nation, in which 75 people were accused: 74 men and one woman. The courts handed down jail sentences of 6 to 28 years. Nowhere was the death penalty, nor a life sentence, handed down, as anti-Cuba propaganda has falsely divulged, despite the serious crimes that were committed and the dangers to Cuba's national security these entail.

The police officers that detained the mercenaries did not resort to any kind of violence or the use of force, not even minimal. Knowing the nature of the crime perfectly well and bereft of any moral justification or principle of dignity, the mercenaries did not offer any resistance to the arrests.

The penal proceedings were carried out summarily, in view of the seriousness of the circumstances and by virtue of Law No. 5 of 1977, Law of Penal Proceedings.

In accordance with Cuban legislation and judicial norms, a summary trial signifies the power of the Supreme Court President to shorten the period of the trial; in no case does it imply the curtailing of judicial guarantees.

All of the accused were previously informed of the charges filed against them and had the opportunity, as all who are accused in Cuba, to plead their case before trial. That these individuals were told the charges against them at the time of trial is completely untrue.

All of the accused exercised their right to a defense attorney that, according to Cuban legislation, can be designated by the accused or, failing this, appointed by the court. Fifty-four defense attorneys participated in

these trials, 44 of them, 80 % of the total, designated by the accused or their families. Only 10 defense attorneys were court-appointed. The claim that the right of the mercenaries to a competent defense was curtailed is false.

Contrary to what is alleged in anti-Cuba propaganda campaigns, all of the accused exercised their right to be heard in an oral trial before ordinary civilian courts that had been previously assembled, in conformity with Cuban and international legislation. No special, ad hoc tribunal was created to judge them, nor were special or ad hoc judges appointed.

No secret trials were held. The oral hearings for all of the trials were public and adversarial. Nearly 100 people, on average, participated in them, that is to say, nearly 3,000 people in total, chiefly made up of relatives, witnesses, experts and other Cuban citizens.

It is true that a few accredited foreign diplomats in Havana were not present at the trials by decision of the judges, as no foreigner was being put on trial, only Cubans. The Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular

relations only envisage consular access to trials in cases where the detained are foreigners.

The relevant courts, by virtue of their prerogatives, decided to deny access to the press, due to the information relating to national security that would be handled during

the trials and to prevent publicity from interfering with the impartiality and objectivity of the court's functioning.

Nevertheless, the press was informed of these trials in detail. On April 9, 2003, two days after the last of the trials held, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Felipe Perez Roque, offered a long and detailed press conference that saw the participation of 82 journalists belonging to the accredited foreign press, representing 59 media from 22 different countries, and all of the national press.

During this conference, the Cuban chancellor, making use of video and audio tapes and other kinds of documentary evidence presented at the trials, informed the press of the circumstances and development of the trials in question and answered questions posed by reporters.

A book entitled "Dissidents" was also published in Cuba; the book included the testimonies of 8 Cubans who, voluntarily and in compliance with the dictates of their patriotic conscience, provided Cuban State Security with extensive information on the activities that the 75 tried

and convicted mercenaries were conducting against Cuba's constitutional order. These 8 honest Cubans, committed to the cause of their people, "allowed themselves to be

recruited" as alleged mercenaries by the US Interests Section in Havana and "joined" the ranks of a number of subversive organizations created by the United States in Cuba. In said organizations, they reached important

positions and received a significant share of the money channeled by the superpower's administration to pay for their services. Their testimonies confirm the facts stated in this report. (See: "Dissidents". Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Baez. Editora Politica Publishing House.

Havana. 2003).

All of the accused and their defense attorneys exercised the right to submit the evidence and present the witnesses they considered favorable to them, in addition to those presented by the investigative officers and the prosecution. The defense attorneys presented 28 different witnesses of those called on by the prosecution; of these, 22, the immense majority, were authorized to act as witnesses by the courts.

All of the defense attorneys had prior access to the prosecution's files.

As established in Cuba's legislation and as notified at the time of trial, all of the accused had the right - as exercised by the majority- to appeal to a court higher than that responsible for their trial, in this case, before the Supreme Court.

The seizure and confiscation of possessions all were authorized by a court order and always carried out following proof of their illicit origin.

In all trial stages, the most scrupulous respect for the physical and moral integrity of each and every one of the accused was maintained. All of them have enjoyed and continue to receive medical care, including specialized services, absolutely free of charge, as do all other Cubans.

There isn't a shred of evidence suggesting that any form of coercion, pressure, threat or blackmail was used to obtain the declarations and the confessions of the accused.

During his oral hearing, after the court had reminded him of his right to declare or abstain from declaring or from responding to a specific question if he so wished, one of the accused freely declared: "I would like to comment here, before this court, on the adequate treatment that we've received from State Security authorities within the investigative organs, to say it was a just treatment, we have not been provoked, we have not been mistreated at any

time". To this, he added: ".and to express my thanks for this just treatment, for the fact that we've received excellent medical attention three times a day and that the

doctors have come to our cells in view of any pain or health complication we've experienced. They've conceded us contact with our relatives and, well, we've had extensive contact with our defense attorneys, they've given us all

the time in the world to converse with them".

Medical care offered the mercenaries in prison. The truth about some of the most renowned cases in the deceptive anti-Cuba campaigns.

Like all of Cuba's penal population, the convicted enjoy adequate emergency medical services in all penitentiary facilities, which, in some cases, include hospitals that offer surgical services. As is established and generally practiced in Cuba, in the more complex cases that have required costly examinations or specialized treatments, the mercenaries have been transported to and admitted into regular public hospitals, where all Cuban citizens receive medical care free of all discrimination.

The afflictions that some of the convicted suffer from were contracted prior to their arrest. None of them suffers from any condition that would prohibit reclusion.

In all cases reporting illnesses, relatives have received timely information from medical personnel on the evolution and treatment of the disease and the medical attention that has been offered in each of the cases.

We can take as example the case of Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe, who, according to media campaigns promoted by the United States, was suffering from hepatic cirrhosis and was in serious medical condition due to inadequate medicalattention. We must stress that this, as many other allegations of medical assistance that has been denied the 75 mercenaries, is completely false.

As the government of Cuba informed one the organs of the Commission on Human Rights, once Espinosa Chepe's relatives had submitted a summary of his medical record a few weeks following his detention, Cuban authorities immediately proceeded to re-locate him, on April 20, to the inmate's ward of the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana.

Following this, on May 12, he was admitted into the inmate's ward of the "Agostinho Neto" Hospital, for the purposes of conducting a hepatic study, which revealed that Espinosa Chepe does not suffer from hepatic cirrhosis, as has been alleged, but rather from a hepatic granulomatosis, which does not interfere with the normal functioning of the liver and was caused by a Brucelosis, contracted before his imprisonment.

Visits from relatives were authorized during his stay in the hospital. On May 22, 2003, his niece, Ileana Moreno Espinosa, a doctor, was conceded a meeting with the Chief of Medical Services of the Provincial Ministry of the Interior and with the doctor from the "Agostinho Neto" Hospital who was directly treating Espinosa Chepe. In this interview, Dr. Moreno Espinosa was presented the details of the medical examinations conducted and their results, as well as those which were still pending; she expressed satisfaction with the report.

Despite the medical follow-up that Espinosa Chepe has been subjected to, he himself has refused to submit to a number of tests that would be useful to a more profound analysis of his health. On May 29, 2003, he refused to submit to a gastroscopy and other routine tests that had been prescribed with the aim of evaluating the digestive problems he was presenting.

On May 31, he was hospitalized in the inmate's ward of the "Ambrosio Grillo" Hospital with the aim of carrying out more extensive medical examinations. On this occasion, a computerized axial tomography, urine analysis, renal system check-up, gastroscopy, an ultrasound, erythrosedimentation analysis, rectal, liver, bilirubin and glomerular filtrate analyses were recommended.

Espinosa Chepe has refused to submit to other prescribed analyses, such as a laparoscopy and a biopsy of liver and pancreas, an analysis of colonic edema, and a gastroscopy,claiming these would bring him complications.

Espinosa Chepe's medical condition is stable and wholly compatible with the conditions of reclusion in which he finds himself.

Just as much could be said in connection with the campaign of false allegations regarding the mistreatment and inadequate medical attention and treatment allegedly encountered by Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, who reportedly suffers from high blood pressure and an ischemic cardiopathy.

As indicated, she was to be re-evaluated by the practitioner every three months. However, it was decided that a specialist in internal medicine was to examine her every 15 days and that the prison doctor was to do so every week.

Roque Cabello has had periodic contact with her relatives, who have received precise and detailed information from the facility's doctor about her medical condition and the treatment that she receives.

However, in July of 2003, Roque Cabello began turning down the medical attention, medicine and diet that she was being offered in prison, accepting only those that were delivered or sent by her relatives.

On July 22, she was re-located to the "Carlos J. Finlay" Military Hospital, upon presenting a high blood pressure and chest pains; she was subjected to two echocardiograms.

Due to reported chest pains, a computerized axial tomography and an electrocardiogram were conducted on July 27. Both yielded negative results, that is to say, neither revealed any life-threatening complication, as anti-Cuba propaganda has divulged. The doctors prescribed her the appropriate diet and medication.

That same 27th of July, during the visit of her niece, Maria de los Angeles Falcon Cabello, the head of the hospital ward detailed the inmate's condition, the prescribed treatment, the results of the analyses, the examinations conducted and the new tests that were to be conducted.

On July 28, a new medical exam conducted determined that her vital signs were stable and that her blood sugar levels remained high, in view of which the doctors decided that she should begin a diet for diabetics.

Roque Cabello's medical condition is stable and wholly compatible with the conditions of reclusion in which she finds herself.

As can be appreciated, these and all other inmates enjoyed the surest and amplest guarantee of quality medical attention. They are admitted into regular public hospitals whenever their condition requires it; there, like all Cuban citizens, they are submitted, entirely free of charge, to costly and sophisticated medical examinations employing high-tech equipment, being prescribed and receiving the medication that they require.

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