Minnesotans Join National Actions To Protest Circuit Court Verdict On Cuban Five
by the Minnesota Cuba Committee
June 14, 2008
Local Minnesota groups including the National Lawyers Guild - Minnesota Chapter, Vets for Peace, the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, and the Minnesota Cuba Committee have all strongly registered their objection to the latest violation of the rights of the Cuban Five and their continued imprisonment after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the five Cubans on June 4, 2008.
The five Cubans, known as the Cuban Five, came to the U.S. following a wave of bombings and other terrorist activities in Cuba. They came here solely to monitor exile groups in Miami suspected of perpetrating these crimes. In 1998, the Cuban government reported the findings of the Cuban Five to the U.S. government. Instead of arresting the terrorists in the Miami exile community, the FBI arrested the Five They were ultimately convicted and given sentences from 15 years to life.
The trial of the Five, located in Miami, was characterized as a "perfect storm" of bias and improper influence" from the anti-Castro Cubans in Miami by a three-judge appeals court panel. They were convicted in June, 2001 and received 75 years collectively. In August, 2005, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial outside of Miami. However, this decision was reversed by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has now upheld its earlier reversal.
Bruce Nestor, President of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild said,
"The decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Cuba Five represents a surrender to the conservative ideology of the Cuban exile community instead of the upholding of justice. As the dissent powerfully points out, there is no legal or factual basis for charging Gerardo with murder as a result of the decision of the Cuban government to shoot down a plane which had repeatedly violated Cuban airspace. Members of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild have been proud to work on the legal team defending the Five and will continue our efforts until all of the Five are released from prison, returned to Cuba, and the U.S. government takes steps to prevent violent provocations against Cuba from being organized and carried out from U.S. soil."
Last Friday afternoon, June 6, 2008, Minnesotans gathered in front of the United States Courthouse in Minneapolis to protest a recent decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Cuban Five. There were similar protests last Thursday and Friday across the U.S. This was part of a national strategy to increase awareness about this latest circuit court verdict. Supporters in Minnesota and across the United States are vowing to continue the fight to free the Five.
Professor Peter Erlinder of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN has been involved in developing arguments to defend the Cuban Five. Commenting about the the Cuban Five and the most recent verdict, he stated:
"A 'perfect storm of bias,' engineered by anti-Castro Miami-Cubans, is how the first appeals court panel characterized the Cuban-5 trial...when it ruled that the case should be re-tried outside of Miami. The Cuban-5 were convicted and sentenced because of who they are, and what they represent...not because of what they did.
"As the dissenting judge stated in the most recent 11th Circuit ruling, there was simply no evidence to support conviction on the most serious charge, conspiracy to murder, based on the Cuban air force having shot down a plane that threatened Cuban airspace. And, the entire court agreed that there was no support for the sentences of three defendants. In a new sentencing hearing, much reduced sentences and even release might be possible, under the law...in that sense the 11th Circuit ruling is a partial victory, under difficult conditions.
"But, the fact remains that the Cuban-5 are imprisoned for the "crime" of reporting on U.S.-based "terrorist" groups planning violence against Cuba....the U.S. admits that U.S. security was not involved. But, when the "terrorists" were reported to the FBI, it was the Cuban-5 that were arrested, rather than the Miami-Cubans who were carrying out the attacks against Cuba.....and who are still free to continue launching attacks against Cuba from U.S. soil."
"The 11th Circuit opinion of June 4 merely confirms that the "perfect storm of bias" that infected the trial continues to determine the outcome of the case of the Cuban-5, a case that has always been more about politics than law."