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Vol. 75/No. 35      October 3, 2011

Judge denies return to Cuba
for 1 of Cuban 5 after his release
(front page)
In a September 16 ruling, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard denied a motion by René González, one of the Cuban Five, that he be allowed to return to Cuba upon his release from prison in Florida October 7. The five Cuban revolutionaries have been held behind bars in the United States since 1998 on frame-up conspiracy charges (see article on page 7).

González’s 15-year sentence, handed down in 2001, required him to serve a three-year “supervised release” after leaving prison. His motion filed in February of this year is based on grounds that he has no close family in the U.S. and his wife, Olga Salanueva, has been repeatedly denied entry to the country by Washington.

Lenard ruled that a decision on González’s motion was “premature” prior to a period of experience with the “supervised release.”

In a September 19 phone interview, Phil Horowitz, González’s attorney, said the ruling is “very exceptional.” People who aren’t U.S. citizens and must serve a supervised release, he said, “are normally deported without condition to their country. They do not have to report to a probation officer.”

González, who was born in the United States, is both a U.S. and Cuban citizen. “There are examples of people with dual citizenship who have been deported after being released,” said Horowitz. “It’s as if the judge doesn’t recognize his Cuban citizenship.”

Among the “very exceptional” circumstances surrounding Lenard’s decision is that it came two days after Bill Richardson, former Democratic Party governor of New Mexico, “left Havana in a huff,” as CBS News reported September 14. Richardson told the press he was “‘disappointed and perplexed” because he hadn’t been allowed by the Cuban government to visit U.S. citizen Alan Gross and “the Cubans refused to discuss [Gross’s] case with him.”

Earlier this year Gross, who was arrested in Havana in December 2009, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Cuban court for distributing sophisticated satellite equipment to so far unidentified persons in Cuba as part of a covert U.S. operation to create a “democratic” opposition to the revolutionary government there.

During what he portrayed as a private, eight-day visit to Cuba, Richardson, according to a September 15 New York Times account, had Obama administration approval to offer in exchange for Gross’s release “to waive probation for one of the ‘Cuban Five,’ as a group of Cuban agents accused of espionage in the United States are known on the island, so he could go home after he leaves prison next month.”

The Cuban government rebutted Richardson’s allegations in a September 14 interview given by Josefina Vidal, head of the North America Department of Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, to the Associated Press. Vidal said the Cuban government had turned down the request for a prison visit only after Richardson had described Gross to the AP as a “hostage” of Cuba.

“We explained to Mr. Richardson,” Vidal said, “that Cuba is a sovereign country which does not accept blackmail, pressure or posturing.”

Judge Lenard, in her September 16 ruling, said González could file a later motion to return to Cuba “after commencement of supervised release should the circumstances warrant modification.”

She added that some time “needs to pass before the Court is able to properly evaluate the characteristics of the defendant … or whether there is a continued need to protect the public from further crimes.” Lenard said González’s motion did not indicate “how any of those factors has changed since he was sentenced.”

In other words, said Horowitz, “René will have to serve at least part of his probation in the U.S.” and “demonstrate that he is a model American.” Horowitz added that where González will be required to live and other details of his release are still “under discussion.”
Related articles:
Cuban revolutionary fights double life sentence in U.S.
Received incompetent defense, appeals for new trial
Miami meeting defends Cuban Five  
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