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The Smell of the Carob Tree

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

David was found guilty of murder by the Camaguey tribunal after investigators from the Ministry of the Interior found traces of his scent on the trunk of a carob tree.

Laritza Diversent

In its sentence number 57 of March 30, 2007, the Camaguey Court sentenced Delvis David Pena Mainer to 40 years imprisonment for the assassination of a young 23-year-old man and his 17-year-old wife.  Delvis, 44 years old, declared himself innocent but the Camaguey court found him guilty through a “pile of existing proofs against him”.

According to the organ of justice, on January 27, 2005, David waited for his neighbor behind a carob tree.  When he arrived, he attacked him with brutal machete blows until he killed him.  The wife of the young man heard the desperate pleas and ran out to help him, but upon seeing the crime she turned back and ran.  Pena Mainer followed her and violently attacked her with his machete.  The young woman died of excessive loss of blood due to so many wounds.

The couple moved to the “New Times”, a locality of the municipality of the Vertientes in Camaguey.  There were rumors in the neighborhood that the young man had sexual relations with the daughter of his neighbor, David, and also with his wife.  Pena Mainer “decided to rid himself of the insult he was being subjected to, eliminating him physically”, affirmed the tribunal in their sentence.

David had undergone three operations on his spine after an accident which occurred in 1999.  In 2000, his injuries disqualified him from permanent work.  The tribunal determined that “he did not suffer from a certain illness that would impede his movement”, however, they did not comment on his ability to run after a young woman to attack her.

The body of the young man was 11 meters from the carob tree.  “The investigator shrewdly suggested that they take samples from the smell of the tree”, the court said.  David acknowledged having been there 15 days before and five days after the crime, but the tribunal said that the argument did not justify “the presence of his scent in that specific place”.

In the same fashion, the judges rejected the evidence for the defense, relating to “the canine technique applied”.  According to the court, the investigator confirmed that “the hound lost the trail” and the proof was not significant, without specifying when this was realized.

In their sentence, the court also did not expose any information about the measures which were taken to protect the scene of the crime against environmental contamination or the peoples’ curiosity.  The fact “provoked a grand commotion among the population”, according to the judge.

According to the court, the injuries found on both victims were carried out by a right-handed person, like Pena Mainer, who was also found with a sharp blade.  In the handle of the weapon there was some blood, “…although they were not able to determine to which species it corresponded”, the court added.

The judges accepted an experiment which was done on 4 different blades to prove the similarity between the chips seen by an unskilled artist, a neighbor of Pena Mainer, when he uncovered the suspected culprit days after the crime.  The witness noticed one which was broken against the head of a pig, according to expert Zurdo. The sentence does not explain with which objects the left ones were nicked.

After four years in prison, Delvis David seeks new elements to justify his innocence. He was hoping to compare blood samples found on the weapon, with DNA of the victims, but the judges ordered the blade to be delivered to the Union of Corrective Labour with Sabanilla internment  in Camagüey.

In reality, there is a low probability that his case will be reviewed by a superior court. Not after the judged from the province with the evidence ordered “the destruction and disposal” of various articles of clothing of the victims, some with “stains of hematic aspect”, spots of blood from the place of the events and two slides hanged in the carob tree where they were impregnated by its smell.

Translated by Raul G and Ivana Recmanová

May 8 2011

Gross Judged by a Biased Court and Defense

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

The case of a North American contractor, Alan Gross, judged in Havana on 4 March this year for a crime against the security of the Cuban state raises suspicions and questions. More than a few within the island wondered if his rights as a defendant were respected or if the court that prosecuted him was independent.

In this very last aspect, the Cuban Constitution contradicts itself. It says that juries “in their function of imparting justice, are independent and have no other obedience than to the law”, but it sometimes subordinates them to the decisions of the National Assembly and of the State Council.

In fact, the last of these two political organs is constitutionally directed to interpret the law and to impart instructions to the Prosecution and the courts. The case of the contractor has political dimensions and his imprisonment has become an obstacle for normalisation of the relations, which deteriorated beginning 50 years ago, between Cuba and the US.

The probability that politics has biased the juries, is high. Moreover, doubts are raised by the delay in the investigations and the decision of the authorities to request a sentence of 20 years imprisonment for Gross, charged with the commission of “acts against the independence of the state or the integrity of its territory”, one of the more imprecise and severe precepts of the criminal legislation.

His detention without charges, in December 2009, was excessively prolonged. Then, 14 months after his imprisonment, the prosecution presented the accusation in front of the Court of Havana. Everything indicated that the work of the investigation was difficult for the authorities.

The law of the criminal proceeding expected that between the detention and the exercise of the final public action, no more than 100 days would pass. However, the proper law allows the General Prosecution of the Republic, the capacity to extend this undefined end, for a request of the head of the Ministry of Interior or the prosecution.

The Criminal Procedure Law provides that between arrest and the exercise of public prosecution, no more than 100 days should elapse. However, the law itself gives the Attorney General of the Republic, the power to extend the term indefinitely, at the request of the head of the Interior Ministry or the prosecutor.

Perhaps the suspicion is true that the prosecution of Alan Gross was brought to its conclusion to turn him into a currency of exchange. There are speculations about the possibility that  the Cuban government, in compliance with its promise to bring back to their five heroes, would try to exchange the North American for them.

Raúl Castro, president of the State Council and the Ministry, unsuccessfully tried this action with 52 dissidents of the group of 75 prosecuted in Black Spring*. It is too much of a coincidence that Gross’s defense attorney was the Cuban lawyer Nuris Piñero Sierra, 61 years old, who also represents five agents of the Cuban intelligence, prisoners in the United States.

It all possibly indicates that the North American subcontractor was subjected to a biased trial and defense.

*Translator’s Note: The Black Spring refers to the arrest of independent journalists and others in March 2003 (when the world’s eyes were turned to the American invasion of Iraq).

Translated by: Ivana Recmanová

April 7 2011

Costly Dreams

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment

José, with his 35 years, dreams of driving a convertible silver Audi. His eyes are open, it was not difficult for him to come back to reality when his fan stopped due to a blackout. The heat of the night activates his brain. He thought of a solution for his existential problems.

He wanted to prosper economically, but was convinced that anything he thought up would carry him over the line to illegality, and with it, the possibility of going to prison. “If I were Mexican, I’d risk my life crossing the border,” he said to himself. But he was in Cuba, a country that strictly regulates departures from the country.

He devised a plan to cross the 90 miles of sea that separated him from his American dream. Building a rustic vessel that he generously called a boat.  He invited his two best friends to join in his enterprise.  Each looked for two iron tanks (55 gallons), the kind that people commonly use to store their water reserves.

They began their work in the living room of his house. First they sealed the containers with no more than 20 liters of water inside. Then, they joined them together with angle brackets leaving space between them to put inflatable truck tires.  They only lacked the installation of the keel to break the waves, when they heard a knock at the door.

They jumped out of their skin when they saw the chief of the sector, accompanied by two policemen in a patrol car. First they said that neighbors had complained about the noise of hammers and engines, and then that they had information that they were building a boat to leave the country.

They came with a search warrant which they executed on the spot. They seized what didn’t look much like a boat, and took them as detainees to the police station. To their astonishment they released them five hours later, without any penalty.

They were naive, because 15 days later they received a decision from the Harbor Master imposing a fine of 3,000 pesos in  national currency, for building a boat without permission.

The infraction, described as very serious, is characterized in Decree Law 194 of June 19, 1999, “Of the infractions with regard to the possession and operation of vessels in the country,” supplemented by Resolution No. 2 of December 7, 1999 of the Ministry of the Interior which establishes procedures for its implementation.

The rule issued by the Council of State, considers 14 offenses and classifies them as minor, serious and very serious, punishable by fines ranging from 500 pesos to 10,000 pesos, including the possibility of subsidiary punishment of forfeiture. The Harbor Master is authorized to implement the sanctions.

José added to his already overwhelming economic problems a fine that exceeds what he could legally earn in a year. They say it costs nothing to dream, but trying to realize a dream can be very expensive.

Translated by Rick Schwag and Ivana Recmanova

Spanish post
December 25 2010

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