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    Cuban punk rocker convicted on lesser charge, freed after being ordered to pay fine

    Cuban punk rocker convicted on lesser charge, freed after being ordered
    to pay fine
    By WILL WEISSERT | Associated Press Writer
    10:09 PM EDT, August 29, 2008

    HAVANA (AP) _ A Cuban punk rocker known for his raunchy lyrics
    criticizing Fidel Castro was convicted of public disorder Friday, but
    freed after a court dismissed a more serious "social dangerousness"
    charge that could have sent him to prison for four years.

    Following a two-hour trial, the court ordered Gorki Aguila to pay 600
    pesos (US$28) and released the 39-year-old singer.

    "I am very proud of all the people who have supported me, and I feel
    even more hate for this tyranny," Aguilar told reporters upon his release.

    The fine is big money in a country where nearly everyone, Aguila
    included, works for the state and takes home an average of 408 pesos
    (US$19.50) per month.

    But Aguila would have faced far more severe punishment had he been
    convicted of "social dangerousness," which the government defines as
    violating "communist morality." That charge is often used to detain
    would-be offenders before they have a chance to commit a crime.

    Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission on Human
    Rights and National Reconciliation took the unusual step of attending
    the trial — which was open to Aguila's father and band mates as well as
    about 10 of his supporters, but closed to reporters.

    "The prosecution asked for a fine," said Sanchez, whose group is not
    recognized but largely tolerated by Cuba's communist government.
    "Fortunately, there will be no more time in prison."

    Aguila was arrested Monday as his band, Porno para Ricardo, rehearsed at
    the modest Havana apartment he shares with his father. The case sparked
    international outcry but caused little stir on the island, where the
    band has only a small but devoted following.

    Aguila was previously arrested in 2005 on drug charges that he says were
    fabricated because authorities objected to his music.

    Founded 10 years ago, the band — whose name means "Porno for Ricardo" —
    is known for ridiculing the communist system, especially Castro, 82 and
    ailing, and his younger brother Raul, who became president in February.
    Its songs at one time were broadcast on state radio and TV, but the
    group was later banned and has resorted to small, occasional concerts in
    underground venues.

    With long and wild curly black hair and healthy stubble, Aguila grinned
    and waved to supporters as officers loaded him in a police cruiser and
    drove him home. He will be allowed to pay his fine over time.

    Aguila said Cuban authorities "want to teach me a lesson every chance
    they get," but were shocked by the international uproar. "There were a
    lot of repercussions, and they were very afraid."

    Sanchez said Friday before the trial that the "dangerousness" charge
    usually results in jail time for people who have not committed any crime.

    "Because of 'social dangerousness,' thousands and thousands of Cubans
    are in prison," he said.

    Band Guitarist Ciro Diaz said authorities told Aguila's state-assigned
    attorney he was arrested for being "an anti-social."

    "His lawyer said he talked to the prosecutors, and that a judge told
    them this was a political trial," Diaz said outside the courthouse.
    "That this was about an undesirable in the neighborhood who made songs
    with lyrics against the system, against Fidel and everything else."

    Diaz said he and a friend were roughed up and arrested by state agents
    the previous night after they held up a handwritten sign reading "Gorki"
    at an open-air concert by legendary Cuban singer Pablo Milanes. He said
    they were treated for minor injuries and then interrogated for hours
    before being released without charge.

    Gathered outside the courthouse before the trial were human rights
    observers from the Canadian and Dutch embassies, as well as an official
    from the U.S. Interests Section.

    Blogger Yoani Sanchez — who has won international acclaim for her
    criticism of the government — was granted access to the trial, which she
    called "an inquisition."

    "It's a message to all those who have not yet dared to criticize things
    but were thinking about it," she said.


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