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Jailed Cuban punk rocker to stand trial Friday

Cuba has ordered jailed punk rocker Gorki Aguila, an outspoken critic of Fidel Castro and the communist government, to stand trial on Friday for “social dangerousness,” a charge that could carry up to four years in prison.

Authorities arrested the 39-year-old lead singer of Porno para Ricardo at his Havana home on Monday, shortly after the band had completed work on a new album. Cuban law defines “social dangerousness” as behavior contrary to “communist morality,” and police use it to detain offenders before they have a chance to commit a crime.

Performing songs with angry lyrics that poke fun at or openly insult Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, who became Cuba’s president in February, Porno para Ricardo is banned from official Cuban airwaves.

The government often applies the “social dangerousness” charge in cases of public drunkenness or as a way to keep large groups of unemployed Cubans – or those simply skipping work – from congregating on city streets during business hours. It is also applied to cases of drug addiction and “anti-social behavior.”

But Aguila works for Cuba’s film institute and was doing nothing out of the ordinary when police came and took him away, his father Luis said Wednesday.

The arrest has touched off an avalanche of criticism on blogs in Cuba and the United States. Musicians on and off the island also sent e-mails decrying the case. Aguila remains in police custody but has been well-treated and is in good spirits, his father said.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, released a statement Wednesday saying legal protocols should mean the trial will be held in public. He said Aguila has asked “diplomatic observers” to attend, apparently hoping they will be allowed to get a glimpse of a legal system seldom seen by foreigners in this closed society.

Sanchez’s statement said that after investigating, the commission determined that “Gorki Aguila has not committed any specific crime as defined by the current criminal code.”

The Cuban government has not commented.

Ciro Diaz, guitarist for the band whose name means “Porno For Ricardo” in English, said “these kinds of trials are very biased. It’s difficult for someone to be absolved.”

“A lawyer can do very little because there’s no evidence of criminal activity presented, only what the police say,” said Diaz, who plans to attend the trial.

Diaz said there were rumors months ago that the police would break up a concert and that Aguila’s neighbors complained of excess noise during rehearsals.

“We’ve finished our new album. We don’t know if this is because of that or if it could be something that’s been cooking for months,” Diaz said.

He said the band is working to upload its latest album to the Internet.

Aguila was arrested and sentenced to prison in 2005 on drug charges, which he denied, saying Cuban authorities entrapped him. His band accused the government at the time of trying to keep Porno para Ricardo from appearing in Habana Blues, a 2005 documentary about a flourishing underground music movement on the island.

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