Cubans who took boat get quick convictions
By Vanessa Bauzá
HAVANA · A panel of Cuban judges delivered a swift verdicts on
Tuesday, finding six men guilty of stealing a government-owned vessel and
sentencing them to jail --
less than 24 hours after their trial began. Four of the six defendants received jail sentences, ranging from seven to 10 years, requested by prosecutors at Monday's trial.
The judges, however, reduced the sentencing recommendation for two of
the men from nine years in prison to eight, said Magalys Vaquero, president
of the Provincial
Tribunal of Camaguey, where the one-day trial was conducted.
The five judges who presided over the case had 10 days to return a verdict.
But on Tuesday they traveled to Camaguey's Ceramica Prison to inform the
men of their
"We handled this with speed with the interest of informing the public,
so that they would know that both in the United States and in Cuba these
types of cases are
handled with severity and for people to stop leaving the country illegally," Vaquero said.
She indicated the sentences would be publicized in the state-run media today.
The six men were part of a group of 12 who stole a Cuban government-owned
boat from the north central port of Nuevitas on July 15, after taking two
hostage. U.S. Coast Guard officials repatriated them after heated protests from the Cuban-American community, which feared their fates would be similar to those of
three Cuban hijackers who were caught and executed in April.
Six of the 12 men were set free after being interviewed by Cuban officials; the others were tried and convicted.
Cuba has seen a rash of boat and domestic plane hijackings since March.
One of the hijackers, Adelmis Wilson, was found guilty last month in a
Key West courtroom.
He faces a minimum 20-year sentence.
The 12 migrants were returned after Cuban officials gave the Bush administration assurances they would serve no more than 10 years in prison, if convicted.
Sentences for two of the men, Mijail Suarez Martinez, 28, and Angel
David Velazquez Roldan, 31, were reduced to eight, because the judges decided
in the theft did not merit more time in prison, Vaquero said.
The other men convicted were: Antonio Carrion Peña and Noelvis
Martinez Carrion, who received sentences of 10 years; Yosvel Chavez Novo,
eight years; and Adel
Fabian Napoles Rodriguez, seven years.
On Tuesday, Chavez Novo's mother, Eugenia Novo, said she thought her son's sentence was excessive.
"He committed a crime, but it isn't for eight years," Novo said. "He didn't kill anyone, and he isn't a terrorist."
Yanara Martinez, 22, wife of Noelvis Martinez, said she had hoped his sentence would be reduced.
"So many people have left illegally, why him?" she said.
Vanessa Bauzá can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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