CubaBrief: Young Cuban father Luis Robles jailed and sentenced to five years in prison for defending jailed artist

Luis Robles Elizastigui still jailed, and now sentenced to five years prison for peacefully protesting in 2020.

Luis Robles Elizastigui, who has been jailed for one year and three months for silently protesting with a cardboard poster calling for the freedom of Denis Solís González has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “disobedience” and “enemy propaganda”. Luis Robles has already been subjected to ill treatment by prison guards, and prisoners carrying out the guard’s orders to target him that rise to the level of torture.

The level of the outrage requires some context to understand its full extent.

Police illegally raid the home of a musician. While ransacking the artist’s home the intruder is videotaped by the aggrieved party that hurls insults at the rampaging police officer. Nothing incriminating is found. Because the musician insulted the government agent ransacking his home and recorded it, he is arrested and charged with “desacato” [ contempt] of the police officer and jailed.

The arrest generates notoriety and a month later a single individual takes to the street walking silently in a picket with a cardboard poster demanding the freedom of the aforementioned artist. The Cuban dictatorship condemns the artist to eight months in prison for contempt, and this week sentenced the lone protester calling for the freedom of the jailed artist to five years in prison.

The message is clear, Cuba is a dictatorship.

Cuba today is not a free country, and has not been one for over six decades. It is a communist dictatorship with thousands wrongly jailed. Hundreds are jailed for peacefully protesting, but thousands are jailed under the Orwellian charge of pre-crime, for what they may do in the future.

Below are some of the details surrounding the series of events that led to Luis Robles Elizastigui being unjustly sentenced to five years in prison. He is a prisoner of conscience.

FreeMuse, the Danish NGO that advocates for artistic freedom of expression, reported on November 9, 2020 that the: “Rapper, activist and member of the San Isidro Movement Denis Solís González was detained in La Habana after sharing a video on 6 November of a police officer entering his house without a warrant, reports ADN Cuba.”

Rapper Denis Solís with his colleague Eliexer “El Funky” Márquez shortly after leaving prison.

Cuban journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, in his Spanish column in The Washington Post published November 20, 2020 described the arrest and aftermath as follows, “Solís, a young rebellious Cuban rapper, called a policeman “a coward wrapped in a uniform” who on November 7th entered his house to harass him without his permission. He filmed the altercation with his cell phone and posted the video on his social networks. In a summary trial, without a defense attorney, Solís was sentenced for contempt to eight months of deprivation of liberty.”

Less than a month later, Luis Robles Elizastigui walked along the San Rafael Boulevard in central Havana on December 4, 2020 with a piece of cardboard converted into a poster calling for the freedom of Denis Solis, an end to repression, and freedom. Videos were taken by passersby and uploaded to the internet.

He was arrested without resistance by the police, and charged “with ‘acts against state security.’ According to Diario de Cuba the charge was filed by First-Lieutenant Roberto Batista, who issued an order for ‘temporary detention.'”

Luis Robles with poster fashioned out of cardboard in December 4, 2020 one man protest.

14ymedio identified the “young man as 28-year-old Luis Robles Elizastigui, originally from Guantanamo, who is the father of one son. Bystanders rushed to his defense when police tried to arrest him for holding up a cardboard sign that read, “Freedom, no more repression.” The sign also included the hashtag ‘#FreeDenis,’ a reference to the rapper Denis Solis, who was sentenced to eight months in jail for alleged contempt.”

A Habeus Corpus motion filed on December 14, 2020 was rejected by Popular Provincial Tribunal of Havana and he remained held at the headquarters of the secret police in Villa Marista. He was transferred to the maximum security prison of Combinado del Este in Havana. Activists reported that a prison official has instructed other prisoners to repeatedly physically assault him, and expressed their concerns for his safety.

Five months later Luis Roble’s brother, Landy Fernández Elizástegui, was interviewed by Luz Escobar for 14ymedio. This is what he had to say about the prison conditions his brother is induring.

Luz Escobar. What does your brother say about his stay in jail?

Landy Fernández. Due to the COVID issue, I have not been able to see him, not even when he was in Villa Marista (the central prison of State Security in Cuba). As soon as he arrived at the Combinado del Este prison, in the first days of January, we were able to speak on the phone and he began to tell me about the experiences he was having there, of the mistreatment, the threats, the repression.

One day they beat him, stripped him, got him wet and moved him every two hours from one cell to another. At the time of that call, I was at the Prison Directorate’s office at 15th and K Streets with my mother, who came from Guantánamo to see if she could do something which I, as his brother, could not. We were meeting with a ‘population service’ employee and when Luis confirmed these tortures, I had the opportunity to speak with that woman and put my brother’s call through with his complaint so that she could hear it directly in his own voice.

She told me that they were going to order an investigation to find out if it was true, but that never went anywhere. I went to the Attorney General’s Office, they told me to write a letter making the complaint and that they would give me an answer in 60 days, but that date has already passed and I have not received a response yet.

The last time they put him in the punishment cell was when Humberto López said on the news that they had called a demonstration for March 12th in the Plaza de la Revolución. From there Luis came out with all his skin in shreds due to an allergic reaction. Liquid was oozing from the entire surface of his skin.

One year and three months following his arrest and continued arbitrary detention Luis Robles was sentenced to five years in prison for “enemy propaganda” in a trial that did not meet international justice standards. Agence France Press broke the story on the sentencing of Luis Robles.

“The accused Luis Robles Elizástegui is sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for the crimes of enemy propaganda and disobedience committed intentionally,” the court document dated March 28 states.

Denis Solís was released from prison on July 11, 2021, and found that he was subject to continued police harassment, threats, unable to leave his house or work, and many more friends were arbitrarily detained in terrible prison conditions.. Denis left Cuba for exile in Serbia on November 29, 2021.

Luis Robles is an inspiration to Cubans who know of his plight, and the Castro regime had done all it can to silence him, and keep him out of public sight.

This is Cuba under the Castros in 2022. Please sign our petition demanding the freedom of all Cuban political prisoners, and accountability for the dictatorship.

Agence France Presse, March 31, 2022

Cuba sentences protester to 5 years for ‘enemy propaganda’

Cuban police patrol the streets of Havana on November 15, 2021 to prevent protesters from assembling YAMIL LAGE AFP

Havana (AFP) – A Cuban man who staged a rare protest over the detention of a dissident rapper has been slapped with a five-year prison term for disobedience and “enemy propaganda,” according to a sentencing document seen by AFP on Wednesday night.

In December 2020, Luis Robles took to a central street in Havana with a handwritten sign reading: “Freedom, no more repression / free Denis” — referring to the jailing of Cuban rapper and activist Denis Solis over a music video about repression on the island.

Robles, 29, was arrested and has been in prison since.

“The accused Luis Robles Elizástegui is sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for the crimes of enemy propaganda and disobedience committed intentionally,” the court document dated March 28 states.

On Twitter, the Madrid-based Cuban Human Rights Observatory denounced the verdict as another example of Cuba’s communist government “unjustly punish(ing) a young Cuban for exercising his rights to free demonstration and expression.”

Solis was reportedly given an eight-month sentence for contempt and released on July 21 2021, the day after unprecedented anti-government demonstrations erupted over price increases and food shortages as Cuba reeled from its worst economic crisis in almost 30 years.

Capturing international attention and defying a ban on unauthorized gatherings, thousands of people across the Caribbean island joined the summer protests, many chanting “we are hungry.”

The ensuing police crackdown left one dead and led to more than 1,300 arrests, with 728 people still behind bars, according to the Miami-based human rights organization Cubalex. Some face 30-year sentences on charges such as sedition and public disorder.

Cuba has denied holding political prisoners, and claims the protests were a Washington-backed conspiracy.

© 2022 AFP

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220331-cuba-sentences-protester-to-5-years-for-enemy-propaganda

Infobae, March 31, 2022

Breaking News

Luis Robles, the young Cuban who came out to demonstrate with a banner, was sentenced to five years in prison

On December 4, 2020, he showed a poster calling for the release of a rapper imprisoned by the dictatorship

Newsroom Infobae

March 31, 2022

A young Cuban man who took to the streets in December 2020 with a banner demanding the release of a rapper was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the sentence to which the AFP news agency had access on Wednesday night.

On December 4, 2020, Luis Robles, now 29, walked out onto a street in downtown Havana with a handwritten banner that read: “Freedom/no + repression/free Denis”. Shortly after he was arrested and since then he has been in prison.

The defendant Luis Robles Elizástegui is punished for the crimes of enemy propaganda and disobedience committed intentionally (…) to a penalty of five years of deprivation of liberty”, states the document dated March 28.

“We denounce the five-year prison sentence against Luis Robles Elizástegui. Once again, judges in the service of the @PartidoPCC (Communist of Cuba) unjustly punish a young Cuban man for exercising his rights to free demonstration and expression,” the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, based in Spain, said on Twitter.

Robles was protesting against the imprisonment of Cuban rapper Denis Solis, who was released on July 12, 2021, a day after the historic demonstrations in which thousands of Cubans took to the streets demanding “Freedom” and the cry of “We are hungry”.

These protests left, in addition to one dead and dozens injured, 1,395 detainees, of whom 728 remain imprisoned, according to the Miami-based human rights NGO Cubalex.

Many protesters have received sentences of up to 30 years for crimes such as sedition, attack and public disorder.

Both the United States and the European Union have criticized these arrests and have called on the Cuban authorities to release political prisoners.

(With information from AFP)

https://www.infobae.com/en/2022/03/31/luis-robles-the-young-cuban-who-came-out-to-demonstrate-with-a-banner-was-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison/

From the archives

14ymedio, May 7, 2021

“I Am Not Afraid, I Will Not Stop Asking for My Brother’s Freedom”

Landy Fernández Elizástegui, brother of Luis Robles Elizástegui who has been jailed for holding a sign calling for the release of rapper Denis Solís. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 May 2021 — While Luis Robles Elizástegui was being arrested last December 4th on San Rafael Boulevard for holding a sign that read “Freedom. No more repression. # Free-Denis [Solís]”, his brother Landy spent a working day like any other in the private workshop where he was employed.

Since that day, Landy Fernández Elizástegui’s life has taken a 180 degree turn and he has had no rest in seeking legal help for Luis.

The young man, 26, tells 14ymedio that 48 hours before the protest in San Rafael, on December 2nd, he went to visit his brother for his birthday. Luis, who “has always thought differently about the regime,” says his brother, did not talk to him about the idea of going out to demonstrate despite the fact that, he says, they have “very good communication”. He defends his decision, in any case. “Luis simply got tired, said enough and wanted to protest peacefully. For me, those seem to be his reasons”.

Landy Fernández was seen by the investigator who was handling his brother’s case several days after his arrest in Villa Marista, the State Security operations center in the Cuban capital.

The last time they put him in the punishment cell was when Humberto López said on the news that they had called a demonstration to be held at the Plaza de la Revolución for March 12th. Out of that demonstration, Luis came out with all his skin in shreds

The official explained that Robles was fined 1,000 pesos, but that even he did not understand why, he insists. From that moment, Fernández tried to get the file number and the case of the judicial process, which he managed to obtain a week later.

When reviewing the documents, he realized that his brother was accused of “other acts against State Security”, although this changed later.

During that time, he also filed a habeas corpus petition that was denied, and after receiving many rejections from lawyers to take up the case, he was able to get one, who asked him not to make his name public.

Luz Escobar. What does your brother say about his stay in jail?

Landy Fernández. Due to the COVID issue, I have not been able to see him, not even when he was in Villa Marista (the central prison of State Security in Cuba). As soon as he arrived at the Combinado del Este prison, in the first days of January, we were able to speak on the phone and he began to tell me about the experiences he was having there, of the mistreatment, the threats, the repression.

One day they beat him, stripped him, got him wet and moved him every two hours from one cell to another. At the time of that call, I was at the Prison Directorate’s office at 15th and K Streets with my mother, who came from Guantánamo to see if she could do something which I, as his brother, could not. We were meeting with a ‘population service’ employee and when Luis confirmed these tortures, I had the opportunity to speak with that woman and put my brother’s call through with his complaint so that she could hear it directly in his own voice.

She told me that they were going to order an investigation to find out if it was true, but that never went anywhere. I went to the Attorney General’s Office, they told me to write a letter making the complaint and that they would give me an answer in 60 days, but that date has already passed and I have not received a response yet.

The last time they put him in the punishment cell was when Humberto López said on the news that they had called a demonstration for March 12th in the Plaza de la Revolución. From there Luis came out with all his skin in shreds due to an allergic reaction. Liquid was oozing from the entire surface of his skin.

Everything become complicated at work too, they began to visit the owner of the workshop, my other brother, and we thought that the best thing to do was for me to leave and stop working

Luz Escobar. How has all this impacted your life?

Landy Fernández. On the day of the supposed demonstration, March 12th, my house was also under surveillance by State Security officers, who did not allow me to go anywhere. My internet service also gets cut off. Recently two agents came to ask me to stop my publications on the networks because the same thing that happened to my brother could happen to me, a direct threat. But I do not care because I am not afraid, I will not stop asking for freedom for my brother. My father called me from Guantánamo to try to stop me, but I told him that these are different times, that in his time he did what seemed convenient and that I am now going to do what I should.

Everything became complicated at work too, they began to visit the owner of the workshop, my other brother, and we thought that the best thing to do was for me to leave and stop working until everything about Luis was resolved.

Luz Escobar. What has the lawyer explained to you about where the case of your brother stands?

Landy Fernández. Luis’s investigative file has already closed, that is where the prosecution accuses him of “enemy propaganda” and “resistance” and asks for a six-year sentence. The lawyer advised me to stop the process now until he can meet with my brother again and prepare a proper defense, including the testimony of everyone about the mistreatment that he has received in prison. I agreed, because otherwise he would go straight out of the Combinado prison to a court trial without us knowing well what they are accusing him of. He has partial knowledge, thanks to my conversations with some of his colleagues, but, since April, I have not been able to speak with him again and he does not know all the details.

He has told me that he has seen a lot of abuse by the officers against the prisoners, that they are handcuffed and beaten until they cry. These are 40- and 50-year-olds crying like little children from the blows they are given

 Luz Escobar. How has the call system in prison been up to now?

Landy Fernández. I imagine that they interrupt his calls to punish him. He has told me that he has seen a lot of abuse by the officers against the prisoners, that they are handcuffed and beaten until they cry. These are 40- and 50-year-olds crying like little children from the blows they are given. He also tells me that, in the beginning, the other prisoners took things from him as if to provoke him, but he told me that he had no interest in responding to those provocations, that he wanted to be calm. After he called me and asked me to make public that State Security wanted to recruit him in exchange for parole, I lost all communication with him.

Fine of 1,000 pesos imposed on Luis Robles Elizástegui. (14ymedio)

Another prisoner has called me to tell me that Luis is fine and wants to know how we are, how his son is, how his mother is, but others have also called me and told me that they have not seen my brother for days or in the yard. Since I don’t know any of them, I don’t know if they are calling me from a street corner or if they are lying.

I told the Directorate of Prisons that I needed to regain communication with my brother and they told me that Luis had done something and his calls had been suspended as punishment. They did not tell me what he did wrong but I think it was because of that call: I published the audio where he says that State Security wanted to recruit him, that he is not willing to negotiate his principles in exchange for anything, and that he will be imprisoned for whatever time is necessary.

The lawyer has done a very good job so far, he instills faith in me, especially in the way he talks to me. He tells me that he is going to try to use all the legal tools in favor of Luis and I’d like to believe him because my brother has not committed any crime. Peacefully holding a poster in public is not a crime anywhere in the world.

Translated by Norma Whiting
https://translatingcuba.com/i-am-not-afraid-i-will-not-stop-asking-for-my-brothers-freedom/