Lady in White Sentenced to One Year in Prison After Summary Trial
Havana’s Municipal Court of Arroyo Naranjo sentenced Lady in White Yolanda Santana Ayala to one year in prison for the crime of disobedience due to the non-payment of fines, according to Berta Soler, leader of the human rights opposition movement, who spoke with 14ymedio.
“Yolanda Santana and other Ladies in White have been threatened for weeks by State Security with being taken to prison if they do not leave the movement,” Soler told this newspaper.
The Penal Code establishes that a person who “disobeys the decisions of the authorities or public officials” can be sentenced to a term of from three months to one year in prison.
“We have the cases of Gladys Capote and Micaela Roll who are being threatened with going to jail. Those fines are imposed on us when we go out on the street every Sunday and violate the police operation they maintain around our Lawton headquarters and around the houses of the Ladies,” she adds.
According to Soler, the declared objective of the Government is that the Ladies in White Movement disappear.
During the trial, which lasted half an hour, Santana’s two children were present. “There was no lawyer there to defend my mother but there were many plainclothes officers,” Yaima González Santana, daughter of the activist, told this newspaper.
Yolanda Santana has 18 fines she has refused to pay, 12 fines of 150 pesos (roughly $6 US) and six for a value of 1,500 and 300 pesos, González explains. “My mom says that her house is not a dungeon and that’s why she does not plan to pay those fines for just wanting to leave her house. The highest fines were all canceled because they determined they were false and she was only charged with not playing the 12 fines of 150 pesos,” she added.
González said that outside the court “there was a big operation” of State Security and that all the other trials that were scheduled were suspended. She also said that at the end of the session they took her mother to the Capri police station, in Arroyo Naranjo, but later they would not give her more information.
“I asked for the paper with the sentence, so I could see it, but they told me that since it was a summary trial the family does not receive any paper and that this document went directly to the prison. I’m waiting for her to call me so I can find out what prison they took her to,” she added.
The Ladies in White have issued several reports denouncing State Security’s adoption of the imposition of fines as a method to intimidate its members.
Santana Ayala joined the women’s movement in 2013. Soler says that as a measure of pressure against the activist they imprisoned her son.
In its latest report, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) affirmed that there are at least 120 political prisoners in Cuba. The independent entity states that this figure “is very difficult to arrive at because the Government of Cuba does not cooperate” with international organizations.
On the island there are between 65,000 and 70,000 people imprisoned and it is “very difficult to define an exact number of political prisoners because they are mixed in [with other prisoners],” the report states.