78 Cuban refugees sentenced to 2 days in prison

Seventy-eight Cuban asylum seekers accused of engaging in an illegal protest in front of the United Nations building in Port-of-Spain, last Friday, have been sentenced to two days in prison.

The group pleaded not guilty to obstructing the free passageway on the pavement on Chancery Lane, when they first appeared in court hours after being arrested.

However, when they reappeared before Magistrate Sanara Toon-McQuilkin in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate's Court this morning, they were advised by their attorneys to plead guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of a $200 fine or up to a month in prison.

In sentencing the group of men and women of various ages, Toon-McQuilkin considered the fact that they were the second set to be arrested for such a protest in less than a year.

Toon-McQuilkin set a starting point of 12 days in prison, which she reduced by a third because of the group's guilty plea.

She also deducted the five days that they spent on remand as they were not able to access the $5,000 bail they were granted by her, last week.

She also reduced the sentence by a day because of the mitigation plea by the group's attorneys, who spoke of the hardships they endured since fleeing their country due to alleged political persecution.

- by Derek Achong

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