74 anti-government protesters in Cuba sentenced to 18 years in prison

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The latest convictions bring the total number of people convicted in connection with the protests to 488.

Havana :

Cuban courts have handed down prison sentences – some of up to 18 years – for 74 other people involved in the unprecedented anti-government protests last summer, officials said Wednesday.

Judicial authorities in Havana, Santiago and Matanzas announced the convictions of 74 defendants charged with sedition, public disorder and other crimes related to the protests. Two defendants were acquitted.

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Of those who were convicted, 56 were sentenced to between 10 and 18 years behind bars, while the other 18, including 12 teenagers, had their sentences commuted to “correctional work”.

The convicts “damaged the constitutional order and the stability of our socialist state”, the prosecutor’s office said.

Mass protests erupted across Cuba on July 11 and 12 last year, with protesters demanding freedom amid economic strife, food and medicine shortages and growing anger at the government. These are the biggest protests in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.

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A crackdown by security forces left one dead, dozens injured and 1,300 people detained, according to civil society organization Justicia 11J.

In previous legal proceedings, some protesters have been jailed for up to 25 years.

The latest 74 convictions bring the total number of people convicted in connection with the protests to 488.

In January, the government said 790 people, including 55 minors, had been prosecuted for the July protests.

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The Cuban government accuses the United States of being behind the protests.

Cuba’s National Assembly in May approved a new penal code, including harsher penalties for offenses such as “participation in subversive activities”, in a bid to prevent a repeat of the July protests.

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