August 29, 2008 / 11:10 PM / in 10 years

Cuban punk rocker goes to court for "dangerousness"

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban punk rocker whose songs have ridiculed the Cuban government went to court in handcuffs on Friday charged with “social dangerousness,” which could bring a prison sentence of up to four years.

Cuban Punk rocker Gorki Aguila is escorted by police to court in Havana August 29, 2008. Aguila, whose songs have criticized the Cuban government, is facing trial for the charge of "social dangerousness", which could bring about a prison sentence of up to four years. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Gorki Aguila, 39, received applause and shouts of support from about 15 friends as he was taken from a police car up the steps of the Havana court, which had drawn a crowd of foreign diplomats, foreign correspondents and government press officials during the day.

The bushy haired and lightly bearded Aguila said nothing in response.

The courtroom was closed to media and it was not clear if he would face trial immediately or be informed of the charges against him for a later trial.

Aguila was arrested on Monday as his group, Porno para (for) Ricardo, was recording its latest album, said band and family members.

His songs have fiercely criticized Cuba’s communist government and its leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.

The group’s CDs are banned in Cuba but copies are circulated underground.

Ciro Diaz, a guitarist with the band, said he had been told the government considered Aguila “an anti-social” because “he didn’t vote, didn’t go to meetings of the Revolution Defense Committee and made songs against the Cuban system.”

The charge of dangerousness pertains to people who authorities believe are likely to commit crimes, and can include such things as habitual drunkenness, drug addiction and anti-social behavior.

Aguila went to prison previously on drug charges that he said were the result of a trap by the Cuban government.

The illegal but tolerated Cuban Human Rights Commission said its preliminary investigation of the latest charge found Aguila committed no crime and called for the case to be canceled.

The human rights commission recently issued a report saying the Cuban government had 219 political prisoners behind bars and that short-term detentions of government opponents had increased dramatically in the first half of 2008.

Cuban officials view dissidents as mercenaries working with the United States to subvert the government.

The United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba for 46 years and its diplomats in Havana openly work with the opposition.

Diplomats from several countries, including the United States, along with journalists and Cuban press officers were among those who waited much of the day for Aguila to arrive at court.

Reporting by Jeff Franks and Esteban Israel; editing by Michael Christie and Eric Beech

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