Garcia’s Case: The Legal Process
The speedy trial of independent journalist Dania Virgen Garcia is also included in Cuba’s Criminal Procedure Law (LPP is its acronym in Spanish). Crimes that carry a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or up to 300 Cuban pesos in fines – like this case we’re addressing – are held at the municipal courts. There the legal procedure starts right after the accusation or complaint has been received.
Garcia’s arrest was conducted by local police in the San Miguel del Padron municipality. When someone is arrested, according to the LPP, police have 72 hours to present their criminal investigation on the case to the equivalent of the district attorney (DA) from that municipality. Police also have to notify the DA, within 24 hours, that an arrest has been made.
The DA’s office of the aforementioned municipality then has 24 hours, after receiving the case’s preliminary docket and when there is an arrest involved, to decide whether they see reason to continue the legal process with a referral to the appropriate court. In this case, the court can set the trial date within five business days after the DA’s referral of the case.
The law says that, only when there are injuries that require medical attention or any other insurmountable reason, the court can set the trial date beyond the five business days time frame. From Garcia’s arrest to the trial four days passed, when the legal term is nine. Apparently, the legal investigation or case against her was initiated before her arrest.
Garcia was arrested in her home in the afternoon of April 20th. Independent journalist Luis Cino said that, according to Garcia’s own words, the accusations against her were made approximately 10 days prior to her arrest.
This type of trial is known by its speed. The hearing was held on the 23rd and right there, the judge declared her guilty and the sentenced was issued. The pronouncement of the sentence implies its notification and, therefore, the starting point of the time frame to appeal it.
In these cases, the LPP does not allow a public defender appointed by the courts. A defense lawyer is accepted, if the accused individual come to the hearing with her/him. A representative from the DA’s office can also be present, if they chose to do so, to exercise its functions in the hearing/trial.
Dania didn’t hire a defense lawyer to represent her due to her lack of knowledge of legal topics and because she never imagined the justice system was going to be so fast. Besides, the family was never involved as witnesses for the prosecution.
Filed as Dania Virgen Garcia
Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria