Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cuban court issues positive ruling in lawsuit

Posted on Wednesday, 04.27.11

Cuba law
Cuban court issues positive ruling in lawsuit

Cuban court says dissident lawyer's case against the Justice Department
can continue.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuba's top court has issued a relatively positive ruling in an
unprecedented lawsuit by a dissident lawyer against the Minister of
Justice, saying he filed a document in the wrong place but allowing the
suit to proceed, according to the lawyer.

"The tribunal issued a ruling that in general I consider to be good,"
said the lawyer, Wilfredo Vallin. "It denies our appeal because of a
procedural error, but allows us to continue the lawsuit against the
Justice Minister.''

He already has filed the document in the correct place and Justice
Minister María Esther Reus González now has 45 working days to answer
his suit, the 63-year-old Havana lawyer told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday
by telephone from Havana.

Vallin's lawsuit has been breaking legal and political precedents since
he first filed it in 2009 in an attempt to force the Justice Ministry to
at least answer his request to legally register an association of
independent lawyers.

Cuban courts, controlled by the ruling Communist Party, had never before
agreed to consider a citizen's lawsuit against a top government
official, according to Cuban legal experts. Usually, they throw out such
suits at the first opportunity.

The Havana government also dismisses all dissidents as "mercenaries" and
"counterrevolutionaries" paid by the U.S. government to undermine the
island's communist system.

But Vallin's challenge has now made it all the way up to the People's
Popular Tribunal, the country's top court, which handed him its ruling
on April 21.

The ruling essentially took the case back to April of last year, when he
erroneously filed a document with a provincial office of the Justice
Ministry, Vallin said. He re-filed the document Nov. 22 with the
ministry's main office in Havana.

"I don't want to claim victory, but the People's Supreme Tribunal did
not shut the door on us. It could have, but it didn't do it," he said.

Vallin sued Reus Gonzalez after receiving no answers to his repeated
requests to register with her ministry a group of about 30 dissident and
"independent" lawyers who offer free legal advice, most often to
government opponents.

Cuban lawyers can work only for the government or so-called "collective
law offices" controlled by the government. Most of them try to avoid any
cases that would go against the Cuban government's interests. The
government news media has never reported on the case.

Vallin, in his first step to register the Cuban Juridical Association,
wrote to the Justice Ministry's Associations Registry office in 2009
asking it to certify that no other group already registered was using
that name.

The registry has never answered when other dissident or independent
groups try to get legal recognition, but he decided to sue based on
administrative laws and regulations that require the Justice Minister to

Much to Vallin's surprise, a lower court ordered Reuz Gonzalez to
appoint lawyers to represent her in the case, and the lawsuit moved
slowly but steadily up the chain of regular and appeals courts until it
landed on the People's Supreme Tribunal.

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