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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Cuba jails blind dissident lawyer
Human rights group leader Elizardo Sanchez
Cuban human rights activists revealed details of the trial
A court in Cuba has sentenced a blind dissident lawyer to four years in jail.

The lawyer, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, was convicted of contempt, public disorder and resisting arrest.

The Cuban government made no comment about the trial, which lasted one day. Nine other dissidents tried at the same time were given shorter sentences.

The trial was held behind closed doors in the central town of Ciego de Avila and was the first of its kind in the country this year.

Last year, the Cuban authorities sentenced 75 opposition activists to jail terms of up to 28 years, prompting criticism from the European Union and the United States.

All 10 defendants in the latest trial were arrested on 4 March 2002, when they tried to visit an independent journalist, who had allegedly been beaten by police at a hospital in Ciego de Avila, 400 km (249 miles) east of Havana.

They have been detained since then.


Elizardo Sanchez, head of opposition group the Cuban Human Rights Commission, said he had received information of the trial from relatives of the dissidents.

He said: "Prosecutors asked for six years and Gonzalez Leiva received four, and the others got lesser terms that we have not yet determined."

Before the trial, the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said the situation was a "travesty".

"The trial of a blind lawyer, along with nine other dissidents, continues the repressive trend that was so glaringly evident last year in Cuba," it said in a statement.

In February, a United Nations envoy published a scathing report on Cuba's treatment of political dissidents in prison.

French judge Christine Chanet, who was appointed to look into alleged human rights abuses, said reports that dissidents were being held in "trying" conditions were "particularly alarming".

Havana had denied Ms Chanet permission to visit and said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should be concentrating on alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay, the US military detention centre in Cuba.

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