Cuban dissident stands trial

A Cuban court found prominent
opposition leader Darsy Ferrer guilty of purchasing black-market cement, but he
was released on time served since it took nearly a year for his case to go to
trial.

Human rights officials say that
Ferrer was arrested for a common crime officials usually overlook _ or punish
with a simple fine _ in an attempt to silence his criticism of the government.

Ferrer’s trial was closed to the
media and most of the public, but his wife, Yusnaimy Jorge Soca, said he was
found guilty of purchasing black-market building materials and was ordered
released. He is supposed to serve the roughly four months remaining on his
15-month sentence at the couple’s Havana home.

A physician, Ferrer is among Cuba’s
most prominent dissidents. Like most of those, however, he is better known
abroad than in his own country, where the state-run media almost never mentions
him.

In years past, he organized tiny
street demonstrations to mark International Human Rights Day in December, but
he has been in prison since 21 July 2009.

The state controls nearly all
construction under Cuba’s communist system and many people turn to private
sources for quicker repairs. Cement and scores of other building materials
supplied that way are often pilfered from state stocks.

Ferrer and his wife said they
obtained the cement to repair a collapsing wall in their home, and didn’t
expect it to become a political issue.

Ferrer’s release after being held
without trial for 11 months could add to signs Cuba’s government is softening
its stance toward organized dissent.

The government of Raul Castro
recently promised Roman Catholic Church leaders to move political prisoners to
facilities closer to home, and to give better access to medical care for
inmates who need it.

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