U.S. govt takes aim
at one of Cuban Five
Gerardo Hernández in hole for 13 days
Gerardo Hernández in U.S. prison in 2003.
BY SETH GALINSKY
Gerardo Hernández, one of five Cuban revolutionaries framed up and imprisoned in U.S. jails for almost 12 years, was put in a punishment cell July 21, just one day after doctors said he needed medical treatment. He was returned to the general prison population August 2 after two weeks in abysmal conditions.
Cubas National Assembly of Peoples Power issued a statement August 1 holding the U.S. government responsible for the health and physical integrity of Hernández.
Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cubas National Assembly, told the press that Hernándezs sister Isabel first learned that he had been put in the hole, as the punishment cells are called, when she went for a visit at the U.S. maximum security prison in Victorville, California, July 24. She was only allowed to talk to him by phone, separated by a thick glass partition, while he was kept handcuffed.
Leonard Weinglass and Peter Schey, attorneys who are working on the Cuban revolutionarys legal case, were able to visit him July 31.
Hernández had been asking to see a doctor since April. He was not given an appointment until July 20, when doctors ordered blood tests to see if he had been infected by a bacteria that has sickened many prisoners. Instead of facilitating the tests, prison authorities put Hernández in the hole the next day.
On July 21 they put the entire prison on lockdown. They put Gerardo in the cage and then told him some people wanted to talk to him, Weinglass said in a phone interview August 3. They took him to an office where he was interviewed by two FBI agents.
They claimed that a package was sent to Gerardo from Santa Clara, Cuba, with a suspicious substance, which was never revealed, Weinglass said.
The conditions in the hole were abominable, Weinglass reports.
Its a tiny cell that he had to share with another prisoner, he said. They had him in a cell down a hall where the air conditioning did not reach, even though there were empty cells nearer the air conditioning unit.
The temperature in the area surrounding the prison reached over 100 degrees during the time Hernández was in the cell.
To get enough air he had to lie on the floor and suck air from the space under the door, Weinglass said. He could not use the shower in the cell because it only had scalding hot water.
Gerardo said these were the worst conditions hes faced since he was jailed, Weinglass said.
Weinglass and Schey sent letters to the prison authorities protesting the violation of the prisons own rules in putting Hernández in the hole. They did not inform him of the charges against him. They did not grant him a hearing within seven days, Weinglass said.
Obstructing legal appeal
Being in the hole also obstructed Hernández from consulting with his lawyers as they prepare his habeas corpus appeal, which was filed June 14, requesting a new trial. Weinglass and Schey were told by prison officials that they would only be allowed to visit with a glass partition separating them from Hernández. They were also told they could not carry pencils, pens, paper, or legal documents during the visit.
After the attorneys protested, they finally let us take in one notebook that had nothing written on it, Weinglass said.
They wouldnt let us give Gerardo the legal documents we brought with us. Im going to have to mail them. But mail to Gerardo has been a constant problem.
Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González, Antonio Guerrero, and Fernando González were arrested in September 1998 on frame-up charges of conspiracy to commit espionage or conspiracy to act as non-registered foreign agents and given stiff sentences. Hernández was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder and handed a double-life sentence plus 15 years.
Known internationally as the Cuban Five, they had been gathering information on right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida that have a history of carrying out violent attacks against Cuba.
The murder charge against Hernández is based on the false allegation by U.S. prosecutors that he knew in advance that Cuban air force pilots would shoot down planes flown by Brothers to the Rescue.
Led by CIA-trained José Basulto, Brothers to the Rescue had been making provocative flights into Cuban airspace and over Havana, in spite of numerous warnings. Havana had protested several times to Washington and demanded that the flights be halted. On Feb. 24, 1996, Cuban fighter pilots shot down two of the planes in Cuban airspace, after they refused warnings to turn around.
Under the federal habeas corpus motion, the legal team is presenting new evidence that Hernández is innocent and the U.S. government attorneys committed violations in the handling and falsifying of evidence during the trial.
Washington has denied visas to Hernándezs wife Adriana Pérez 10 times, preventing her from visiting him in prison since his arrest. Olga Salanueva, who is married to René González, has also been blocked from entering the United States.
Messages demanding that Hernández get the medical attention he needs, that he be allowed to work with his lawyers to prepare his appeal, and that he be allowed visits by his wife Adriana Pérez can be sent to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons, Director Harley G. Lappin, 320 First St, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20534, tel: (202) 307-3198, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; and to U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-4000; fax: (202) 647-2283.
12 men and 2 cats: With Gerardo Hernández and his platoon in Angola
Message from Gerardo after release from hole
Join fight to free Cuban Five!