The State Department on Thursday said it is “very concerned” about the well-being of a transgender woman in Cuba who is serving a 14-year prison sentence after she participated in an anti-government protest last July.

Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, notes Brenda Díaz was arrested in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province on July 11, 2021.

The Güira de Melena protest was one of dozens against the Cuban government that took place across the country on that day.

Tremenda Nota reports authorities at Panamá, a prison in Mayabeque province where Díaz has been held, shaved her head and removed her finger nails before they placed her with male prisoners and forced her to wear men’s clothes. Tremenda Nota also notes prison officials refer to García by her dead name.

Reports indicate a Havana court earlier this year sentenced García to 14 years in prison.

García has appealed the sentence and her mother, Ana María García, on June 17 saw her during a court hearing in the Havana suburb of Marianao. 

García told Tremenda Nota that Díaz, who lives with HIV, has gone to the prison infirmary four times and has been hospitalized twice since she has been incarcerated. Díaz, according to her mother, has access to antiretroviral drugs, but other medications are not always available. García also told Tremenda Nota the food that Díaz receives in prison is “very bad quality.”

“We are very concerned about the well-being of Brenda Díaz, especially given reports that she is being held in a men’s prison and is not receiving appropriate medical treatment,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade in a statement.

Díaz is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during the July 11 protests.

Yoan de la Cruz, who is gay, used Facebook Live to livestream the first July 11 protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. The same Havana court that sentenced Díaz condemned De La Cruz to six years in prison, but he was released in May and placed under house arrest for five years.

“Cuban state prosecutors have manufactured false or unjust charges, to include ‘sabotage’ for the actions of demonstrators during July 11 to silence dissidents, quash future peaceful protests and intimidate regime critics,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade. “These protestors have received incredibly harsh prison sentences handed down in politically motivated trials.”

“We strongly encourage the government of Cuba to release Ms. Diaz or at minimum transfer her to a facility consistent with her gender identity, and to provide her with appropriate medical treatment,” added the spokesperson.

The Washington-based International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights is among the groups that have also sought to publicize Díaz’s case.

“A few days before the first anniversary of the peaceful protests known as 11J (July 11), get to know the story of Brenda Díaz, a trans Cuban woman who is serving a 14-year prison sentence for expressing her gender identity amid the protests. Meet her!,” tweeted the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights.

#Cuba | A pocos días de que se cumpla un año de las manifestaciones pacíficas conocidas como #11J, conoce la historia de Brenda Díaz, una mujer trans cubana que paga una condena de 14 años de cárcel por expresar su identidad de género en medio de las protestas. ¡Conócela!

— Race and Equality (@raceandequality) July 5, 2022

Plataforma 11M, an independent LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Cuba, on Thursday urged Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, to “investigate” Díaz’s incarceration and a September referendum on the final draft of Cuba’s new family code that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples

Cuba is among the members of the U.N. Human Rights Council that voted on Thursday to renew the independent expert’s mandate.

Pedimos a @victor_madrigal que investigue el encarcelamiento de Brenda Díaz y el próximo plebiscito del Código de las Familias de Cuba».#LibertadParaBrendaDíaz#UnCódigoInclusivo

— Plataforma 11M (@11M_Cuba) July 8, 2022

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