Canadian man stuck in Cuba faces second trial, inspires Montreal protest
CTVNews.ca Staff with a report from CTV Montreal’s Matt Grillo
Published Sunday, December 9, 2018 8:40PM EST
Protesters gathered outside a Cuban tourism office in Montreal to support a father who’s been stuck in Cuba for over a year — and faces a second trial on Monday for his involvement in a fatal boating accident.
During a family trip to Cuba in July 2017, Montreal resident Toufik Benhamiche was driving a boat that veered out of control and killed an Ontario woman. He was charged and convicted of criminal negligence causing death.
Benhamiche was released from custody after both his conviction and his four-year prison sentence were overturned by Cuba’s top court.
“It was fantastic news for me. And at that time, I felt the nightmare was finishing,” Benhamiche told CTV Montreal from Cuba.
He and his lawyer have alleged that he was given very little direction on how to operate the boat.
But even though his conviction was overturned last summer, Benhamiche was not allowed to go home. On Monday, he will be tried again for criminal negligence, after a second trial was ordered.
On Sunday, more than 50 protesters gathered in Montreal to demand the Canadian and Cuban governments do more to get him home.
“It could happen to anyone, like any tourist who has been there. And to see the injustice that prevails in Cuba, we had to do something,” said protester Linda Pelleri.
Benhamiche’s wife, Kahina Bensaadi, told CTV Montreal that the situation has been “very difficult.” Although her husband isn’t in jail, she said it’s like he is in one.
“It’s like if you’re in jail if you can’t work, you can’t see your family, you can’t kiss your two daughters every night,” she said, adding that she doesn’t trust the system in Cuba.
“It’s the same judges who ignored the law a year-and-a-half before,” Bensaadi said. “It's completely unrealistic. They ignore everything. We feel we are in the middle ages.”
She said she’s been forced to send him money to pay for the Cuban apartment he’s been staying in. The couple said the hardest thing about this is explaining it to their children.
“They say to me, ‘Dad you will never come back at home?’” Benhamiche said.
Civil rights attorney Julius Grey said his client isn't at fault and claimed that his rights are being violated. He believes Cuba’s supreme court should have had the final say in the case.
“What we want them [the Canadian government] to do is to make a concerted, a vigorous effort to get him out,” he told CTV Montreal. “It just shows us that any one of us could fall into such a situation somewhere, or even here perhaps, and nobody cares.”
In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said consular officials are providing services and are in frequent contact with Benhamiche, his wife and authorities in Cuba.
Meanwhile in Cuba, Benhamiche said he's preparing for a guilty verdict and if that happens, he and his lawyer plan to appeal again.