The U.S. administration was forced to recognize that we did not endanger national security
Statement from Antonio, Ramón and Fernando after the re-sentencing hearings in Miami
Dec. 8, 2009
MIAMI.— The re-sentencing proceedings for three of the five Cuban anti-terrorists concluded yesterday after a hearing in the Federal Court of this southern Florida city. Ramón Labañino Salazar was handed down a new prison term of 30 years and Fernando González Llort was sentenced to 17 years plus nine months.
Although the new sentences are still unjust, they modify the former ones against Ramón (life plus 18 years) and Fernando (19 years) and are evidence of the role played by international solidarity in support of this cause and the untiring work of the legal team.
Despite heavy discipline in the court, the shackles… it was impossible to prevent Ramón and Fernando from appearing with their heads held high, their fists in the air, and smiles of encouragement for friends, not only from the United States, who came to show their support.
After the judge pronounced the verdict, a statement in the names of Antonio, Ramón and Fernando in which they confirm the political nature of the trial, was presented to various media sources. They drew attention to the situation of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, who is serving two life sentences plus 15 years, and "who has been arbitrarily excluded from these re-sentencing proceedings."
The document specifies that, as was the case at the time of their arrest on September 12, 1998 and on other occasions since then, "we have once again received proposals to cooperate" in exchange for being given lenient sentences but "we reject them as something that we will never accept under any circumstances," they affirm. They also noted that, for the first time in 11 years, the U.S. administration is being forced to acknowledge that "we did not endanger their national security."
Antonio, Ramón and Fernando were transferred to Miami for the re-sentencing hearings, in compliance with a ruling from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, which determined that the previous sentences had been erroneously imposed.
On October 13 in the same courtroom, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez’ sentence was reduced from life plus 10 years, the sentence handed down in 2001, to 21 years and 10 months. Meanwhile, René González Sehwerert is serving his sentence in a Florida penitentiary.
After the hearing, the Alianza Martiana organized a political reaffirmation event, in which members called on President Obama to immediately release the Five.
US judge cuts jails terms for two members of Cuban Five
Dec. 8, 2009
A US judge has reduced the jail terms of two Cuban men convicted of spying.
Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez were part of the Cuban Five group, jailed in the US in 2001 for spying for the then government of Fidel Castro.
Labanino's life sentence has been reduced to 30 years and Gonzalez's by one year to 18 years.
The resentencing follows an appeals court ruling that the terms originally imposed were too harsh. A third man had his jail term reduced in October.
Antonia Guerrero had his life sentence reduced to 22 years.
Gonzalez had requested a greater drop in his sentence, said the Associated Press news agency.
But US District Judge Joan Lenard said it was "important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country".
The case has long been a cause of friction with Cuba, where the men, who have been in US custody since 1998 - are considered national heroes.
Labanino, Gonzalez and Guerrero - along with Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez - were found guilty in 2001 of infiltrating US military bases and Cuban exile groups, and giving the information to Cuba.
Last year, an appeals court upheld their convictions but ordered three of the group to be resentenced.
US prosecutors have insisted the men were found guilty on hard evidence, while Cuban exile groups say they were justly punished.
The Cuban government says the men were not in Miami to spy on the US but to prevent anti-Castro exile groups from launching what it calls terrorist attacks on Cuba.
Following Tuesday's hearing, the president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said the new sentences were "not without importance".
But he said the jailing the men was still "unjust" and called on the US to release them.
Cubans get reduced sentences for spying in US
by Curt Anderson
MIAMI — Two former Cuban intelligence officers convicted of spying in the U.S. were handed reduced prison sentences Tuesday after an appeals court ruled their original terms were too severe.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard accepted an agreement reducing Ramon Labanino's term from life in prison to 30 years behind bars. At a separate hearing hours later, Lenard shaved a little more than a year off Fernando Gonzalez' 19-year sentence.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year had vacated sentences for the men, both 46, who were part of the so-called "Cuban Five" spy ring. A third member of the ring had his life sentence replaced earlier this year with a far lesser prison term.
Labanino's attorneys' had worked out the new sentence with prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller said the deal resulted in "a reasonable sentence."
Gonzalez, though, had hoped for a greater reduction than what he got.
"It is important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country," Lenard said.
The five men, who are lionized as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 of attempting to infiltrate military bases including Key West's Boca Chica Naval Air Station and the Miami-based Southern Command headquarters in the 1990s. Prosecutors said they also kept tabs on Cuban exiles opposed to the communist government of brothers Fidel and Raul Castro and sought to place operatives inside campaigns of anti-Castro politicians in the U.S.
A key goal was getting inside Southern Command to obtain any U.S. plans for an invasion of Cuba, Miller said.
One of the five, whose life sentence still stands, was convicted of murder conspiracy in the 1996 killings of four "Brothers to the Rescue" pilots whose planes were shot down by Cuban MiG fighters over the Florida Straits. The organization dropped pro-democracy leaflets on the island and helped Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S.
Labanino oversaw many of the Miami-based spy activities for Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence, according to court documents. He also took part in a plot known as "Operation Texaco" involving the theft of dozens of dead infants' identities to concoct fake documents such as passports and drivers licenses for other Cuban operatives.
Lenard initially sentenced Labanino to the maximum life sentence for espionage conspiracy. But the appeals court ruled that was unjustified because no top secret U.S. information were obtained. The same legal reasoning led Lenard in October to reduce the sentence for 50-year-old Antonio Guerrero, who had spied from a job at the Key West Navy base, from life to 22 years.
Gonzalez's 19-year sentence was thrown out because he was wrongly labeled as a supervisor of other spies in the group's attempts to obtain false identification and travel documents. But prosecutors said Gonzalez was a supervisor in other areas, such as the attempt to infiltrate the Southern Command, and had extensive spy training and multiple false identities including the Mexican "Ruben Campa" — a name stolen from a dead child.
U.S. judge reduces Cuban spy's life jail sentence
Dec. 8, 2009
MIAMI (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Tuesday reduced the prison term for a Cuban spy from a life sentence to 30 years in a high-profile espionage case that has strained already hostile ties between Havana and Washington.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard cut the sentence of Ramon Labanino, also known as Luis Medina, from a life term to 30 years, an assistant to the judge told Reuters.
A second convicted spy, Fernando Gonzalez, also known as Ruben Campa, who is serving a 19-year term, was due to be resentenced later on Tuesday.
U.S. prosecutors said both men were part of a Cuban espionage ring that had sought to penetrate U.S. military facilities and had spied on the Cuban exile community in Florida.
The original sentences imposed by Lenard against Labanino and Gonzalez were thrown out as excessively harsh last year by a U.S. appeals court, which argued the Cuban agents had not succeeded in actually sending back top secret information, despite their conspiracy to do so.
Labanino and Gonzalez were arrested in 1998 along with three other Cuban agents. Prosecutors said they formed the so-called "Wasp Network" sent to the United States to infiltrate exile groups opposed to Cuba's communist government, then led by Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro, now 83, handed over the Cuban presidency last year to his younger brother, Raul Castro, 78. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to try to improve U.S.-Cuban ties after a half century of hostility.
The case of the five spies has long been a point of contention between the United States and Cuba, which demands their release, hails them as heroes and says they were trying to prevent "terrorist" attacks by exile extremists.
In October, one of the five, Antonio Guerrero, had his sentence reduced from life to about 22 years.
(Reporting by Tom Brown and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
Cuban spy gets life term reduced to 30 years
Dec. 8, 2009
MIAMI (AFP) – A judge Tuesday reduced from a life term to a 30-year sentence the punishment for a high-profile member of a Cuban spy ring that has long been a key dispute between communist Cuba and the United States.
After an appeals court ruled that sentences against two of the five men were excessive, Ramon Labanino, who is also known as Luis Medina, struck a deal agreeing to a 30-year term, which was accepted by federal judge Joan Lenard.
Labanino, 46, is one of the Cuban Five, who have become a cause celebre in their homeland, daily lauded by the government for what it calls their heroism in purportedly helping derail attacks against the communist isle.
The United States says the five passed US military and other information illegally to Havana.
Another member of the group, Fernando Gonzalez, was expected to have his 19- year sentence reduced Tuesday.
The five men -- Gonzalez, Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez -- were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later.
In October, judge Lenard reduced Guerrero's sentence from life to 22 years in prison, but noted he had committed "very serious offences against the US."
Cuba, which has acknowledged the men were agents but claims they were working to stop terrorist attacks on Cuban soil, regards the men as political prisoners and has lobbied intensely for their release.
Cuban President Raul Castro has said he would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the five, but the US government has rejected the idea.
Cuban spy's life sentence reduced to 30 years
by Jay Weaver
A federal judge Tuesday reduced convicted Cuban spy Ramón Labañino's life sentence to 30 years in prison, based on an agreement between prosecutors and the defendant's attorney in the so-called Cuban Five espionage case.
Labañino was originally sentenced to life by U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard after his espionage conspiracy conviction in 2001. But an appellate court overturned her sentence because Labañino didn't actually gather and send any classified materials to his handlers in Havana.
Labañino was convicted of conspiring with four other Cuban government agents, as he oversaw efforts to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command in Miami and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West. He also was convicted of stealing the identities of deceased U.S. citizens that he and the other agents used for their spy mission on behalf of the Castro government. Labañino's primary alias: Luis Medina.
Last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Lenard to redo not only her sentence for Labañino, but also for convicted spy Fernando González. He got 19 years for acting as an unregistered agent of the Cuban government.
Prosecutors recommended between 17 and 18 years for his resentencing, records show. His attorney argued for 15 years.
The judge said she would issue her decision later Tuesday.
Both men were indicted along with eight others as members of Cuba's "Wasp'' spy network, charged with conspiring to spy on the Cuban exile community, the U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station.
Five of the original defendants pleaded guilty. The others, known as the Cuban Five, faced trial and were convicted.
While the appellate court upheld the five defendants' convictions, it threw out the sentences of Labañino, Gonzalez and one other spy, Antonio Guerrero. He initially received a life sentence. But in October, Lenard reduced his sentence to 22 years.
The 11-year-old case has been mired in controversy because the Wasp spy network was linked to the Cuban government's 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes over international waters. Four pilots for Brothers to the Rescue, which flew missions searching for rafters in the Florida Straits, were killed.
Family members of the victims said Tuesday that they supported the judge's decision to resentence Labañino to 30 years, but they also said the U.S. government should never consider a pardon for any of the Cuban Five.
"I don't want a pardon, and I don't want a [prisoner] exchange,'' said Maggie Khuly, sister of victim Armando Alejandre Jr.
She added that she was pleased that the appellate court didn't overturn the life sentence of Gerardo Hernández, a leader of the Cuban spy mission, who was the only one convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of the Brothers pilots.
"I want him to serve his life sentence,'' said Khuly.
Another family member, Mirta Mendez, brother of victim Carlos Costa, said the judge's 30 year sentence for Labañino was justice.
"It's a life sentence, if you think about it,'' said Mendez, who attended the sentencing with her parents. "By the time he gets out of prison, a good portion of his life will be gone. It's punishment. But no matter what happens, it won't bring my brother back.''
Dozens of supporters for the Cuban Five said they saw the judge's reduction in Labañino's sentence as a step toward demanding a pardon for him.
"This is the best that could be expected today, but not one day of this imprisonment is just,'' said Gloria La Riva, coordinator for the San Francisco-based group, Free the Cuban Five.
La administración norteamericana se vio obligada a reconocer que no causamos daño alguno a su seguridad nacional
Expresa la declaración de Antonio, Ramón y Fernando tras concluir ayer el proceso de resentencias en Miami
Por Deisy Francis Mexidor
MIAMI.— El proceso de resentencia contra tres de los Cinco antiterroristas cubanos, concluyó ayer con la audiencia celebrada en la Corte Federal de esta ciudad del sur de Florida, donde fueron condenados Ramón Labañino Salazar, a 30 años, y Fernando González Llort a 17 años y nueve meses de prisión.
Las nuevas sentencias, aunque siguen siendo injustas, modifican las precedentes contra Ramón (cadena perpetua más 18 años) y Fernando (19 años), y en el resultado se evidenció el papel desempeñado por la solidaridad internacional a favor de esta causa, así como la labor desplegada por el equipo legal.
Pese al rigor disciplinario en la Corte, los grilletes... , fue imposible impedir que ambos aparecieran con sus frentes erguidas, los puños en alto y una sonrisa de aliento para los amigos que, no solo de Estados Unidos, acudieron a brindar su apoyo.
Luego de los resultados, ante varios medios y agencias de prensa, fue presentada una declaración a nombre de Antonio, Ramón y Fernando en la cual ratifican el carácter político de este proceso. Plantearon el reclamo a favor de Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, que cumple dos cadenas perpetuas más 15 años, "quien ha sido arbitrariamente excluido en este proceso de resentencia".
El documento especifica que como ocurrió en el momento del arresto, el 12 de septiembre de 1998, y en otras ocasiones durante el tiempo transcurrido, "ahora también hemos recibido propuestas de colaboración" a cambio de obtener sentencias benévolas, pero "las rechazamos, algo que jamás aceptaremos bajo ninguna circunstancia", puntualizan, y señalan que por primera vez en 11 años la administración norteamericana se vio obligada a reconocer que "no causamos daño alguno a su seguridad nacional".
Antonio, Ramón y Fernando fueron trasladados a Miami para ser resentenciados, cumpliéndose una orden del Onceno Circuito de la Corte de Apelaciones de Atlanta, Georgia, que determinó que las penas anteriores habían sido erróneamente impuestas.
El pasado 13 de octubre, en la misma sala, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez fue condenado a 21 años y diez meses, en sustitución de la cadena perpetua y diez años que le había sido injustamente impuesta en el 2001. Entretanto, René González Sehwerert cumple su pena en una penitenciaría de la Florida.
Luego de la vista, la Alianza Martiana realizó un acto político de reafirmación en el que demandaron al presidente Barack Obama que libere de inmediato a los Cinco.
Reducen a 30 años de cárcel la condena a cubano acusado de espía en EEUU
8 de diciembre de 2009
Una jueza federal de Miami redujo este martes a 30 años de cárcel la condena a un espía cubano acusado de querer infiltrase en organismos militares de Estados Unidos y que cumplía una pena de cadena perpetua que fue considerada excesiva por una corte de apelaciones.
El agente de inteligencia cubano Ramón Labañino, de 46 años, también conocido como Luis Medina, llegó a un acuerdo con el gobierno de Estados Unidos por una pena máxima de 360 meses de cárcel, lo que fue aceptado por la jueza Joan Lenard al anunciar la nueva sentencia.
Labañino es uno de los llamados "Cinco de Cuba'', otro de cuyos miembros, Fernando González, recibirá más tarde este martes una reducción de su sentencia de 19 años que le fue impuesta previamente.
La jueza Lenard aceptó en octubre reducir a 22 años de prisión la condena de por vida que cumplía Antonio Guerrero, otro de los miembros de la red de espionaje.
Los cubanos fueron detenidos en 1998 y acusados por Estados Unidos de actuar de manera ilegal como agentes de inteligencia extranjeros y de conspirar para obtener información de organismos militares y oficiales estadounidenses con el fin de transmitirla al gobierno de Cuba, entre otros delitos.
Cuba admitió que eran agentes a su servicio, pero indicó que se dedicaban a vigilar a grupos de exiliados en Miami y a opositores que pudieran estar involucrados en posibles acciones terroristas contra el régimen de la isla.
"¿Alguien lo forzó, lo amenazó o lo indujo para que firmara este acuerdo?", le preguntó la jueza a Labañino después de leerle íntegramente el documento que el acusado firmó con el gobierno. "No'', respondió fríamente el cubano, vestido con un mameluco marrón de presidiario.
Cuando la magistrada anunció la reducción de la nueva condena hubo algunos festejos entre grupos de cubanos que fueron a la corte a apoyar a Labañino.
"Hay satisfacción porque temíamos que se mantuviera la sentencia de por vida, pero seguiremos luchando hasta su libertad definitiva'', dijo Gloria Larriva, miembro de la ‘‘Comisión para Liberación de los Cinco Cubanos''.
Labañino cumplió hasta el momento 11 años de cárcel desde su arresto y sus allegados calculaban que debería cumplir "unos 14 años más'' para salir con buena conducta con más de tres cuartas partes de pena cumplida.
Los cinco espías son considerados por Cuba como "luchadores contra el terrorismo'' y "Héroes de la Patria'', y ha desplegado una extensa campaña internacional para su liberación.