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What Is DIARIO DE CUBA Journalist Jorge Enrique Rodríguez's Legal Situation?

Here is an analysis of the possible paths that the case could take, based on the information available.

Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, a DIARIO DE CUBA journalist.
Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, a DIARIO DE CUBA journalist.

So far very little information is available on the situation of DIARIO DE CUBA journalist Jorge Enrique Rodríguez Camejo. It is only known that he is being held in a criminal processing center and that the authorities have announced a trial date: July 7.

This does not mean, however, that the trial will necessarily go forward, and, depending on the circumstances that arise, there are several paths that the case may take in the coming days. We explain them here.

About his arrest

The Cuban Criminal Procedure Law (LPP) establishes, in its Article 244, that "upon the arrest of any person, a record shall be issued immediately, stating the time, date and reason for the arrest, as well as any other information that may be of interest [alleged crime]. The record will be signed by the arrestor and the arrestee."

"At the request of the arrestee, or his relatives, the Police or the authority holding him or her will report the arrest and the arrestee's location, as well as facilitate communication between them in accordance with the time frames and in the manner established in the corresponding provisions," it adds.

In addition, the legal guidelines stipulate that, when a person is detained, his relatives and close friends are to be contacted by the police authorities to inform them of the reasons for the arrest, and so that they can view the signed arrest document. In this way transparency in the criminal investigation process is ensured from the beginning. The regime, however, regularly violates these rules in cases of activists, dissidents and independent journalists, which is what has happened with Jorge Enrique Rodríguez.

The trial date

In the current situation, according to the Criminal Procedure Law, the journalist may be detained for seven days before his legal situation is clarified. Thus, it may be necessary to wait until next Sunday, July 5, to ascertain the authorities' decision, since Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was arrested on June 28.

As for the trial, the fact that there is a date may mean that the journalist, while in jail, has received a notification from the court, the only body with powers to do so. If so, due to the brevity of the time frame in question, it would be a summary trial, for which sanctions of less than one year of incarceration are slated, and that can be carried out with or without a lawyer.

The trial day scheduled would give family members time to seek legal counsel. But the trial will take place, whether they find it or not.

The other possibility is that the trial date is a false one, a move by State Security to put pressure on the journalist.

A person may be detained based on investigative criteria, with a file being compiled documenting the commission of the alleged crime and, depending on how the police investigator appointed for the case advances in his inquiries, and collects evidence, the proceedings may be dismissed (filed away) on a provisional or definitive basis.

In this scenario, the detainee must be released, or a precautionary measure must be imposed, such as provisional prison, bail, in cash; house arrest, a moral bond, or an obligation undertaken in writing.

"Dissemination of false news"

Last April, Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was threatened with prosecution for "spreading false news". The Cuban Penal Code contains no crime with that name, but the phrase could allude to several ones, according to the assessments of the investigator and the Prosecutor's Office.

Hence the extreme importance of the journalist and his relatives knowing immediately the purported crime leading to the arrest, so that a defense strategy can be drawn up, a fundamental human right that until now has been denied him.

What are the crimes that the alleged "spreading false news" could entail?

"Crimes against State security," such as:

—Enemy propaganda (Article 103 of the Penal Code), applicable to those who "spread false news or malicious predictions intended to cause alarm, or discontent in the population, or sow public disorder."

—Diffusion of false news against international peace (Article 115), which applies to those who "spread false news with the purpose of disrupting international peace, or endangering the prestige or standing of the Cuban State, and its good relations with an other state."

In both cases the sanction provided for is from one to four years of incarceration, such that the judging of the crimes would not be compatible with the provisions of a summary trial.

The other crimes with which "spreading false news" could fit are defamation and contempt:

—Defamation of institutions and organizations and of heroes and martyrs (Article 204: Applies to those who "publicly defame, denigrate or belittle the institutions of the Republic, the country's political, mass or social organizations, or the heroes and martyrs of the Fatherland." It is punishable by sanctions of three months to one year of incarceration, or a range of fines.

—Contempt (Article 144.2): Applicable to those who "threaten, slander, defame, insult, slight or in any way affront or offend, orally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, or public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions..." It protects "the president of the Council of State, the president of the National Assembly of the Popular Power, the members of the Council of State, or the Council of Ministers, or the Deputies of the National Assembly of Popular Power," and the sanction is one to three years of incarceration.

Jorge Enrique Rodríguez and the time frames in play

As per Cuban law, the judicial authorities have seven calendar days to make a decision on the Jorge Enrique Rodríguez case.

For the first 24 hours detainees are in the hands of the Police, for the next 72 hours they are in the hands of the investigator, and for the last 72, the prosecutor's. These periods can be shortened, but not lengthened, unless authorised by the attorney general.

After these seven days, the prosecutor must issue an order releasing the detainee, changing the precautionary measure of imprisonment for another one entailing freedom; or ratify the precautionary measure of provisional imprisonment, after which the court can maintain the measure and order an oral trial.

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