A former top judge from Cuba has taken the unprecedented step of joining a campaign to highlight the government's imprisonment of thousands of citizens on dubious charges.
Edel González made an emotional appeal to Havana alongside campaigners in Madrid as they published documents that suggest around 11,000 people are in jail for "antisocial conduct."
“I don’t want to see blood on the streets of Cuba. I want peace but I am very afraid about the future,” Mr González said in front of an audience including politicians from the Spanish and European parliaments.
It is thought to be the first time a high-ranking member of Cuba’s judiciary has spoken out in such a public way.
Alongside Mr González, Javier Larrondo, a campaigner against the Cuban government who leads an organisation called Prisoners Defenders, revealed internal judiciary documents that show the country has the highest proportion of its population in the world behind bars, with a total of more than 90,000 inmates.
According to the documents seen by The Telegraph around 11,000 Cubans are currently in jail because they have been deemed to have shown “antisocial conduct”.
This procedure does not require any specific offence to have been committed, and the conviction rate in highly summary trials is 99.5 per cent, according to the papers.
“We believe hundreds or thousands of these ‘antisocial’ convicts are political prisoners,” said Mr Larrondo, adding to the 126 Cuban political prisoners his NGO recognises officially. Mr González said most of those convicted in such procedures are individuals who have connections with criminal circles, but he believes they should have the right to a proper defence.
The 41-year-old Mr González was a rising star of Cuba’s judiciary until he was stripped of his post in 2018, accused of a series of what he calls trumped-up minor misdemeanours.
He told the Telegraph he was fired because he found contradictions in cases brought against people considered undesirable by the regime on “an uncomfortable number of occasions”. “I am expecting to return to Cuba, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t as I am simply voicing the opinions I have heard from thousands of people,” said Mr González, choking back tears as he said that his wife had urged him not to speak out.
The office of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Spanish politician Josep Borrell, told The Telegraph it took note of Mr González’s initiative. Cuba’s international press centre was approached for comment.