Cuban appeals court voids jail sentence for dissident blogger linked to Ladies in WhiteBy Paul Haven, AP
Friday, May 14, 2010
Cuban appeals court voids jail time for dissident
HAVANA — A Cuban appeals court wiped out a 20-month jail sentence against a blogger with ties to the Ladies in White dissident group who had been convicted of mistreating her grown daughter, ordering the woman Friday to pay a fine of about $14 instead.
Dania Garcia had already been released last week from the high-security Manto Negro jail, on the southwestern outskirts of Havana, where she had been ordered to serve her sentence. A judge ruled at the time that she could await the verdict from home, a strong sign the sentence would be thrown out.
On Friday, the appeals court voided the prison sentence altogether but ordered Garcia to pay the 300 peso ($14) fine — about 70 percent of the average monthly wage in Cuba — according to Elizardo Sanchez, a human rights activist who was monitoring the trial.
Garcia, 41, was convicted April 23 of “abuse of authority” for throwing her 23-year-old daughter out of the house. She had been arrested two days earlier. Human rights groups charged that the case was politically motivated.
Garcia is a vocal supporter of the Ladies in White, made up of the wives and mothers of 75 dissidents who were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003. Fifty-three remain behind bars.
Cuba considers the dissidents to be mercenaries paid by Washington to destabilize the island’s communist system.
Garcia also writes for dissident and opposition websites including Primavera Digital and CubaNet, and runs a blog, daniavirgengarcia.blogspot.com, which Reporters Without Borders said is “linked to a radical anti-Castro group based in Miami.” The site is blocked in Cuba.
Sanchez, who is head of the independent, Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, called the case against Garcia the result of “political manipulation of her relatives by the government.”
At the time of Garcia’s arrest, Cuba was in the midst of a crackdown on the Ladies in White. After seven years of relative tolerance, officials suddenly banned the women from holding a small weekly march. The government has since reversed course, following intervention by the nation’s top Roman Catholic official.
Sanchez said both the decision to void the prison sentence and the about-face on the marches are a “sign of the times” that show Cuba’s leaders are trying to avoid bad press.
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