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Activists Say Hundreds Of Cuban Protesters Have Been Arrested Since Anti-Regime Demonstrations Broke Out

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was a little over two weeks ago that Cuba saw the start of the largest anti-government protests in a generation. Now, according to activists, hundreds have been arrested.

Some protesters ​were forcefully arrested as they chanted "Patria y Vida" or "Homeland and Life," the song that has become the anthem of frustration with the communist state. ​

One of those arrested was photographer Anyelo Troya, who filmed part of the music video for "Patria y Vida" in Havana.

Less than two weeks after the protests, Troya was tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.  His mother says he told the court he did nothing wrong.

"He said, 'How is this just when I haven't even seen a lawyer?' And, I am innocent,'" said Raisa Gonzalez, mother of arrested filmmaker. "Immediately one of the police in civilian police came and handcuffed him. I said, "My love, be calm, you are not alone."

The Cuban government refuses to say how many people have been arrested or face trial for taking part in the unprecedented protests. An activist group put the number at nearly 700.

The government maintains those arrested are detained for attacking police, not just for challenging the rule of the communist party, the only political party allowed on the island.

"Having different opinions, including political ones, doesn't constitute a crime," said Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the People's Supreme Court of Cuba. "Thinking differently, question what's going on. To demonstrate is not a crime, it's a right granted by the constitution."

But on the streets of Cuba, elite special forces commandos known as the Black Berets, who were recently ​placed on the sanctions list by the Biden administration for alleged acts of repression, seem to prevent further protests from breaking out.

"Very few of the relatives of the protesters who were arrested would talk to us on camera in Cuba. They said they were too afraid. But many told us their relatives had been arrested for demonstrating peacefully or simply recording and uploading videos of the historic protests as they took place," said CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann.

Odet Hernandez was arrested days after the protests, her relatives say, for posting this video of the demonstrations to Facebook that has now been seen over 100,000 times. Among the charges she and her husband face is instigation of delinquency.

"They weren't violet. They didn't throw rocks at anyone," said Angel Padron, Hernandez's relative. "Then special troops came to get them at their home. A commando unit with many police."

Many of Cuba's top artists have criticized the government crackdown and called for an amnesty for nonviolent protesters.

Amidst the mass trials, some signs of leniency as Troya was released on house arrest while awaiting appeal.

The government though says it has only just begun to prosecute those it says broke the law.

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