HAVANA (Reuters) - Four men who threw anti-government leaflets in Havana’s Revolution Square were sentenced on Tuesday to up to five years in prison by a Cuban court, family members said.
Cuban dissidents decried the decision and said they should be considered political prisoners.
Three of the men — Luis Enrique Labrador, 33, David Piloto, 40, and Walfrido Rodriguez, 42 — received five-year sentences, and Yordanis Martinez, 23, was given three years after the court heard evidence they had committed “defiance” and “public disorder.”
In January, they threw leaflets into the air in two locations in Havana, including the massive Revolution Square that sits in front of the main government offices and is the site of major parades and government rallies.
“They did not commit any criminal act, they didn’t place bombs or attack anyone. They only protested for their ideals,” said Vidiet Martinez, brother of one of the prisoners.
Cuba in March completed the release of 114 political prisoners — including all who were considered “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty International — in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church.
Since then, dissidents have accused the government of roughing them up and detaining them, but none for long periods.
Cuban leaders consider government opponents to be mercenaries in the pay of their longtime ideological enemy, the United States.
Elizardo Sanchez of the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights told reporters the long sentences were “too much” and suggested Amnesty International should put them on their list of prisoners of conscience.
Outside the courthouse, people shouted for and against the government, with most in favor.
“Look, they are four common criminals, counterrevolutionaries, they attacked a policeman, and these mercenaries have to show respect,” said government supporter Juan Miguel Garriga.
Reporting by Jeff Franks and Nelson Acosta; editing by Mohammad Zargham