Cuba commutes lone remaining death sentence
- Submitted by: manso
- Politics and Government
- 12 / 29 / 2010
AFP.Cuba commutes lone remaining death sentence: group AFP/File – File photo shows a group of inmates in the courtyard at Combinado del Este prison in Havana, Cuba. Cuba's …– Tue Dec 28, 10:02 pm ET. HAVANA (AFP) – Cuba's Supreme Tribunal commuted the death sentence of an anti-Castro activist who was the last death row inmate on the island, a rights group said.
The communist-ruled nation has taken a steady turn in recent years against capital punishment. It last carried out the death penalty seven years ago, and has commuted dozens of death sentences since 2008.
On Tuesday, the tribunal was ruling on the appeal of Humberto Real, who had been convicted in the 1990s on murder and "acts against state security."
"The trial ended at 2:30 pm (1930 GMT) and the sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison," Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the opposition Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), told AFP.
Real, 40, was part of a team of seven fighters belonging to the Florida-based National Unity Democratic Party (PUND) who infiltrated Cuba in 1994 to set up a guerrilla base in the Escambray mountains, according to the government-run Cubadebate website.
All seven were quickly captured including Real, who was arrested on October 15, 1994 "after assassinating Arcelio Rodriguez Garcia and stealing his car," Cubadebate said.
Two years later, he was sentenced to death for "acts against state security, assassination, and shooting a firearm against a determined person," the website said.
Hopes for leniency in the Real case were raised earlier this month when the Supreme Tribunal commuted the death sentence of two Salvadorans convicted of bombing tourist sites.
The Salvadorans were given 30-year prison terms -- just the outcome Real had been hoping for, and received, said CCDHRN, an illegal but tolerated group.
There is further precedent for more lenient sentences: in April 2008, President Raul Castro commuted the death sentence of some 30 prisoners.
Yet at the time, Castro warned that the move "does not mean we're taking capital punishment out of the penal code.... We can't disarm ourselves before an empire (the United States) that doesn't stop harassing and attacking us."
Cuba has had a moratorium on executions since 2000, with the sole exception of three people convicted of hijacking a vessel and killed by firing squad in 2003. The trio had hijacked a boat with 50 people on board and forced its crew at gunpoint to take them to Miami in hopes of reaching the United States.