HAVANA TIMES – In most countries with even a semblance of observing civil rights what Luis Robles did would be part of everyday life. Not in Cuba.
When a government feels threatened by a sign demanding greater freedom and the release of a prisoner something is askew.
The following is the report by the Havana based daily 14ymedio on the events and criminal case against the protester. Interestingly while the police surrounded and repressed Robles, passersby defended him.
Young Man with Sign Accused of Acts against State Security
The young man who was arrested on December 4 for protesting with a handmade sign on San Rafael Boulevard in Havana. He is charged with “acts against state security.” According to Diario de Cuba the charge was filed by First-Lieutenant Roberto Batista, who issued an order for “temporary detention.”
The same news site also identified the young man as 28-year-old Luis Robles Elizastigui, originally from Guantanamo. Bystanders rushed to his defense when police tried to arrest him for holding up a cardboard sign that read, “Freedom, no more repression.” The sign also included the hashtag “#FreeDenis,” a reference to the rapper Denis Solis. The singer was sentenced to eight months in jail in an express trial for “contempt”.
A family member who spoke to Diario de Cuba on condition of anonymity said that Robles’ whereabouts were unknown for three days after his arrest. However, they stated that he is now being held at Villa Marista, the main State Security prison in Havana.
Videos of Robles protesting in front of a store on the popular pedestrian thoroughfare went viral. In them he can be heard shouting, “Freedom, down with the dictatorship,” to which some bystanders reply, “Down.” In less than a minute several uniformed police arrived and arrested the protester, who began shouting, “Freedom!”
Passersby come to Robles’ defense
In the video a chorus of voices can be heard shouting the same word as well as, “Thugs. You’re all thugs,” “Let him go,” “Down with the dictatorship” and “Oppressors.”
Several women reproached the police officers while the young man was being arrested. In at least one video they can be seen struggling with the police for a few seconds.
On the day of his arrest, he was fined 1,000 pesos under Decree 272, Article 11 of the Penal Code. According to attorney Santiago Alpízar, the law prohibits “creating a public eyesore” with signs. Authorities have also charged him with “disorderly conduct and contempt.”
In statements to the press the attorney also noted that Robles’ actions do not fit the definition of “other acts against state security,” for which he is also charged. He could face months or years in prison for his lone protest.