The court had ruled Aug. 9, 2005, that the defendants were denied a fair trial because of the perfect storm created by pretrial publicity surrounding this case, the pervasive community sentiment, and the governments closing arguments. The U.S. government, which won convictions for the five men in 2001 based on frame-up charges that included conspiracy to commit espionage for the government of Cuba, appealed last years ruling.
In reversing the 2005 decision the full court of appeals concluded that Miami-Dade Countywhere the five were tried amidst a media barrage that had labeled them guilty with the regular presence in the courtroom of Cuban-Americans opposed to the Cuban Revolutionis a widely diverse, multi-racial community of more than two million people. Nothing in the trial record suggests that twelve fair and impartial jurors could not be assembled by the trial judge to try the defendants impartially and fairly.
The five menGerardo Hernández, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René Gonzálezwere in Miami on an internationalist mission from the Cuban government to collect information on ultrarightist groups of Cuban-Americans that have had a long record of bombings and other violent attacks against Cuba organized from U.S. soil. They were arrested and jailed in 1998. They were convicted three years later.
In addition to the charge of conspiring to commit espionage, Gerardo Hernández was convicted on a count of conspiracy to commit murder. The latter charge was in connection with the shooting down by the Cuban Air Force of aircraft piloted by members of Brothers to the Rescue, a group of Cuban-American rightists based in Florida with a record of provocations against Cuba. Its pilots violated Cuban air space in 1996 and refused warnings to turn back. Brothers to the Rescue had violated Cuban air space previously, dropping leaflets on Havana that asked Cubans to rise up against their government. Hernández is serving a double-life term for allegedly passing along information that assisted Havana in defending its airspace from the unannounced incursions of the group.
Labañino and Guerrero are serving life in prison. Fernando González and René González are serving 19-year and 15-year terms, respectively.
The Cuban Five maintain their efforts were restricted to gathering information on violent Miami-based right-wing groups, the Cuban News Agency reported August 10. The goal was to keep Cuban and U.S. citizens from being the victims of terrorist acts promoted by individuals like Luis Posada Carriles, a confessed assassin accused of being behind the blowing up of a Cuban airliner killing 73 persons.
Posada Carriles was born in Cuba and subsequently became a naturalized citizen of Venezuela. He has boasted to the press that he was among the masterminds of the 1976 bombing. He is currently being sheltered by the U.S. government from extradition to Venezuela where he faces charges in connection with the bombing of the Cuban airliner. A hearing on his request for U.S. citizenship is scheduled for August 14.
The five Cuban revolutionaries have a record of taking part in internationalist missions related to national liberation and advancing the cause of the working class. Three of them were among the 300,000 Cuban volunteer combatants in Angola who played a pivotal role from 1975 to 1991 in helping the Angolan people defeat repeated invasions of their country by the apartheid regime of South Africa.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, the group coordinating the defense campaign for the five in the United States, held an emergency press conference in Atlanta August 10. Attorneys for the five men and other supporters of their case presented the next steps in the fight to win their freedom.
This decision is not the end of the case, far from it, said Leonard Weinglass, the attorney representing Antonio Guerrero. There are nine additional issues which are still pending in the three-judge panel before the court. We can, if we decide to, take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Weinglass said the six attorneys on the defense team will work with their clients over the next week to decide on whether to immediately petition for taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild told the media the court ruling gives tremendous power to the government to bring politically motivated prosecutions and to then select a favorable location where community prejudice will favor the government.
Two days ago we announced we will be holding a national march in Washington from the Justice Department to the White House on September 23, said Gloria La Riva, a coordinator for the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. The march and the forum which follows is more important than ever. For more information on the action visit www.freethefive.org.
Free the Cuban Five!
Whats behind U.S. calls for transition in Cuba?
Cubans defend revolution, say no return to capitalist past
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