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Vol. 75/No. 34      September 26, 2011

Cuban 5 prisoner presses for
return to Cuba after release
(front page)
At a September 12 press conference, conducted by telephone hookup, attorneys for three of the five Cuban revolutionaries held in U.S. jails for 13 years provided new information and answered questions about the upcoming October 7 release of René González and habeas corpus motions filed in federal court by the other four.

Internationally known as the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, and René González were living and working in Florida in order to keep the Cuban government informed of the activities of counterrevolutionary groups organizing harassment, sabotage, and sometimes murderous operations against Cuba. Those groups function with Washington’s tacit knowledge and backing.

The news conference was held on the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 12, 1998, arrests of the five in highly publicized FBI raids. In 2001 they were convicted of frame-up “conspiracy” charges—among others, conspiracy to commit espionage and, in the case of Hernández, conspiracy to commit murder. They are serving sentences from 15 years for René González to double-life plus 15 years for Hernández. Since they were jailed, an international defense campaign has demanded their freedom.

Phil Horowitz, attorney for René González, reported that when González walks out of prison in Marianna, Florida, October 7, he will have to serve another three years of “supervised release” overseen by the federal court’s probation office. U.S. authorities have not yet said where he will be required to live or announced other details of his release.

Horowitz said that in February he filed a motion in federal court on behalf of René González requesting he be allowed to return to Cuba to serve his probation there unsupervised. González has no close family in Florida, and Olga Salanueva, his wife, has been barred by Washington from entering the U.S.

Non-U.S. citizens released from prison, Horowitz said, “are usually deported.” But federal prosecutors insist that González, who holds both Cuban and U.S. citizenship, serve his “supervised release” in the United States. The matter is in front of District Court Judge Joan Lenard, who presided over the 2001 trial. Horowitz said Lenard can rule any time she chooses, before or after González’s release.

“René is willing to renounce his U.S. citizenship,” said Horowitz, “if that’s what it takes to return to Cuba.” But were he to renounce U.S. citizenship before October 7, he would not be released; his imprisonment would be extended pending deportation proceedings. “René will only give up his U.S. citizenship,” Horowitz said, “if that means he will be back home with his wife and family for dinner in Havana the same day.”

William Norris, attorney for Ramón Labañino, and Richard Klugh, cocounsel for Gerardo Hernández, reported on pending affidavits and responses filed since October 2010 by Hernández, Guerrero, and Labañino in support of motions to vacate their convictions and sentences. These are often referred to as habeas corpus (“you should have the body”) motions, open to defendants after all regular appeals have been exhausted.

Norris said that on September 16 Fernando González will file his habeas motion.

In June 2009 the Supreme Court refused to hear all appeals by the five. What’s new in the habeas corpus motions, said Norris and Klugh, is evidence that has come to light since the convictions that Washington paid tens of thousands of dollars to so-called independent journalists who wrote biased and inflammatory articles against the five and the Cuban government during the trial. That’s “the antithesis of the concept of a fair trial,” Norris said.

In Hernández’s case, Klugh said, there are important additional grounds for the motion to set aside his conviction and sentence.

Hernández’s trial lawyer, Paul McKenna, has submitted an affidavit explaining that he did not “present an effective defense of Gerardo.” In an interview with Radio Havana journalist Bernie Dwyer in late August, Klugh said McKenna’s affidavit is “a striking testament to his honesty and integrity in coming forward” with this information, which shows Hernández was blocked from presenting essential evidence and requesting a separate trial on the trumped-up charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

The attorneys are requesting an evidentiary hearing to present the new facts. If the facts are in dispute, it is normal legal procedure for the court to grant such a hearing, Klugh explained. Federal prosecutors, however, have filed responses arguing the motions should be summarily dismissed and an evidentiary hearing denied.

The time frame for this new stage of the legal battle, Klugh said, is in the hands of the judge.

Mary-Alice Waters contributed to this article.
Related articles:
‘Let René return to Cuba now,’ says Alarcón  
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