Canadian detained during Cuban riots in July faces six years in prison
Michael Carey Abadin, 19, who is ill with COVID, has been denied help from the Canadian embassy in Cuba, his mother says
Cuban authorities detained 19-year-old Canadian citizen Michael Carey Abadin earlier this year for allegedly damaging public property during national protests in July. His family says Abadin is imprisoned at the Western Youth Prison in El Guatao, one of Cuba’s many hard-labour camps, where he toils on a work brigade ( brigadas de trabajo) .
Between July 11 and 17 this year, Cuba saw one of the largest anti-government demonstrations in the last three decades. Protesters took to the streets to express their frustration with the ruling Communist Party and demanded the resignation of president Miguel Díaz-Canel.
According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of protesters were arrested during the week-long protests and 400 remain in custody, one of which is Havanan resident Abadin. He was arrested for purportedly throwing a rock at a police car and prosecutors are now seeking a five- to six-year prison sentence.
Abadin frequently visited his father in Ottawa. His dream, according to his mother Yvis Abadin, was to continue his studies in Canada after graduating from college in Havana where they both reside. He had already purchased a plane ticket, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abadin faced repeated flight cancellations.
He is now being denied consular services by Cuban authorities.
That is in contrast to the Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were released in September after being detained in Chinese prisons for more than 1,000 days, and were sporadically permitted consular services during their detention.
“The fact they haven’t yet been able to access Mr. Abadin,” former speaker of the Canadian Senate, Leo Housakos, told the National Post, “says everything we need to know, both about the illegality of his detention and about the lack of seriousness with which the Trudeau government approaches these matters.”
As per Cuban law, the dual citizenships of foreign nationals is not recognized on Cuban territory. As a result, Cuban authorities have made it difficult for Canadian officials to provide consular services to Abadin.
In a statement to the National Post, Global Affairs Canada disclosed that ‘Canadian officials remain engaged with Cuban officials’ and continue trying to secure consular access to the teenager four months after his arrest.
The federal government tells Canadians that consular officials may ask the appropriate authorities for immediate and regular access to them when they are detained, that they advocate to ensure their basic needs are met, raise medical or dental issues with authorities, and obtain information about the status of their case, among other services.
It cannot, however, give legal advice, free a Canadian from a foreign prison, investigate a crime or death abroad, ask local authorities to give a Canadian special treatment or to exempt a Canadian from the due process of local law, and nor can Canada interfere in a local investigation.