Sentenced to 9 Months for Alleged Contempt as His Health Deteriorates.
On Tuesday, August 10, Mr. Virgilio Mantilla Arango appeared before the Florida municipality court in Camagüey, Cuba to appeal fabricated charges of contempt following the July 11 protests. An appeal was filed by Mr. Mantilla, who was forced to use a state lawyer shortly after charges were announced. As private law practice is not permitted in Cuba, Mr. Mantilla was not allowed to contract with a non-state attorney. Lawyers who do not work in the Communist Party-controlled national law firm system are prohibited from defending clients in Cuban courts.
According to GLA sources, Mr. Mantilla’s state-appointed lawyer was initially surprised when the courts accepted the appeal and agreed to hear the case. This sort of legal maneuver does not typically happen on the island and most government lawyers refuse to submit these arguments. Clients and lawyers are usually fearful of bringing cases involving high-ranking police officers, as the potential for retribution is a likely outcome.
During the hearing yesterday, testimony was provided by several witnesses present during Mr. Mantilla’s arrest, including an account by the lead police officer, who noted he did not hear Mr. Mantilla insult any police officers or government officials during the encounter. Other witnesses confirmed the events. Another officer testified Mr. Mantilla peacefully cooperated with the arrest, entering the police vehicle without any problems.
Those present at the hearing noted obvious inconsistencies between testimony presented during Mr. Mantilla’s initial hearing and that given during yesterday’s appeal.
Ultimately, Mr. Mantilla’s appeal was denied, and he will now face 9 months in prison.
Virgilio Mantilla Arango, political prisoner and human rights activist, was recently released from prison in early July after serving 7 months in Camagüey’s prisons for alleged hoarding. While in custody, he contracted COVID-19 and suffered several health complications that may have been exacerbated by the virus. Poor prison conditions, coupled with torture, serious cruel and inhumane treatment, as well as detention in punishment cells, have all contributed to his deteriorating health.
The Global Liberty Alliance applied for Precautionary Measures with the OAS’s IACHR on behalf of Mr. Mantilla on June 15, which is still under review. The IACHR issues these measures to protect citizens in “grave and urgent” human rights abuse situations that cause irreparable harm. Though Mr. Mantilla was released in July, his health had no time to improve before he was arrested only a week or so later and placed back into Cuba’s prison system.
GLA greatly fears for Mr. Mantilla’s safety and health as he is wrongly placed back into Cuban custody.