Prison officials have been denying legal and consular visits to one of the five, Gerardo Hernández, who is serving a sentence of double life plus 15 years on trumped-up charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder.
The Cuban Five, as they are widely known around the world, includes Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. They were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 on various frame-up conspiracy charges.
The five were living and working in Florida where they were monitoring and informing the Cuban government of plans by counterrevolutionary organizations with a long history of violent attacks against the Cuban Revolution and its supporters.
On July 9 prison officials refused to allow Hernández a legal visit from attorney Martin Garbus, a new member of his defense team, Andrés Gómez, president of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, told the meeting.
“This case has been marked from the beginning by violations of due process, beginning with the 17 months before their trial during which [the five] were held in solitary confinement,” said Gómez.
Among other violations of constitutional rights that marked the trial, the five were denied a change of venue from Miami, where residents were bombarded with negative media coverage on the case and intimidating actions organized by Cuban-American counterrevolutionary forces.
According to a statement issued by Cuba’s foreign ministry, when Garbus arrived for a scheduled visit at the federal prison in Victorville, Calif., he was turned away on the pretext that the paperwork wasn’t at the reception desk.
Two days earlier, according to the statement, “Cuban officers who had been already authorized by the State Department to carry out a consular visit to Gerardo were not able to fulfill it” with a similar excuse.
Hernández “was supposed to review documents with his lawyer,” Gómez noted, and prepare oral arguments to be presented in court in connection with a new stage in the habeas corpus motion he filed two years ago asking for a hearing to present new evidence that came to light after his conviction in 2001.
“This is not the first time events like this one occur,” explained the Cuban statement. “They have taken place systematically during every key moment of Gerardo’s legal process.” In 2010, as he was preparing his habeas corpus motion, “the penitentiary authorities denied Gerardo the possibility to be visited by his lawyer Leonard Weinglass in two occasions, and deliberately delayed the delivery of his legal mail, which prevented his participation in the reviewing,” said the statement.
On July 6 the government’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss Hernández’s motion for discovery and oral argument in relation to one aspect of his habeas motion—that some of the journalists who wrote false and inflammatory articles about the case during the trial were at the time on the U.S. government payroll. Labañino, Guerrero, and Fernando González have also filed appeals on similar grounds.
In its reply, the government argued that Hernández’s motion is a “fishing expedition” and that the 11th Circuit Court already determined in a 2006 ruling that the five “received a fair trial.”
Garbus was finally able to meet with Hernández, but only as a regular visitor, Gómez said. “He was not allowed to bring in the documents for the case, or even paper and a pen.”
According to attorney Richard Klugh, another member of Hernández’s legal team, Hernández has until Aug. 20 to reply to the government’s response to his motion.
Gómez reported that René González, who has been on “supervised release” since last October, after 13 years of incarceration, filed a new request June 22 to return to Cuba. (See “René González Again Requests Return to Cuba” in July 16 issue.) Judge Joan Lenard refused a similar motion before Gonzalez’s release, claiming it was “premature.”
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