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Concerns Over Freedom To Testify From Cuba

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

A MIAMI-based exile group fears that the victims at the heart of an alleged abuse trial involving five Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers would not be allowed to testify freely if they continue to live in Cuba.

Leader of the Democracy Movement Ramon Sanchez said yesterday that it was important for the two men – Alexander Vazcuez and Yordan Cantero –  to return to the Bahamas to escape intimidation tactics and political pressures.

The official line from the Bahamas government is that Cuba had yet to respond to requests for the men to return to the Bahamas.

However, Cuban Ambassador to the Bahamas Ernesto Soberon Guzman told The Tribune yesterday that the Cuban government was still working on hashing out all of the possibilities. He added that “one way or the other” the alleged victims’ testimonies would be included in the proceedings.

Mr Sanchez said: “We are happy that our work, speaking out against the injustice that happened to them and protesting helped to get to this point. But the witnesses must be present in the Bahamas and not under someone’s lead or tactics of intimidation. The Cuban government has a vested interest in keeping them there.

“My concern in this is that one way or the other could mean at the end that they will be interviewed in Cuba and won’t feel free to express themselves.

“The Cuban government dislikes us and they might try to influence the detainees because they will have to be there every day and won’t be able to get out.”

While the group awaits word, Mr Sanchez said his group remains on standby in taking any action as it has done in the past.

“There are many other things that needs to take place. We know that the Bahamas has a very serious migration problem and we just remain on standby monitoring what takes place.”

The RBDF officers are accused of beating the Cuban detainees after several of them tried to escape the Carmichael Road Detention Centre last year.

A report into the allegations was later leaked to The Tribune. It contained testimony from the men, which was gathered during internal RBDF investigations. It was also said in the testimony that other RBDF officers witnessed the men being beaten with pipes and then sprayed with pepper spray.

The Democracy Movement branded the incident as an abuse of power.

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