Hopes for freeing the Cuban Five lie in our constant battle
Affirms lawyer Roberto González, a member of the legal defense team for the Cuban anti-terrorists,
held for eight years in U.S. federal prisons
by Deisy Francis Mexidor
Jan. 5, 2007
Reprinted from Granma Internacional
Attorney Roberto González is fully aware of the fact that in the case of the Five, we are in the presence of the utilization of legal mechanisms to perpetuate an imprisonment that has a clearly political objective.
All of the proceedings used against René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González since September 12, 1998 constitute a discharge of hatred, pressure and threats against five individuals in whom they perceive Cuba’s courage and rebelliousness, and the impossibility of making that nation bow down.
A collaborator of the defense team for the five Cuban anti-terrorists locked up in U.S. federal prisons and brother to René, Roberto affirmed to Granma International that the most essential point is for “solidarity to be expanded and diversified among different sectors, especially within the United States.”
“It is very important for the world, particularly the U.S. people, to known not only what is going on with the Five, but also why that injustice is occurring with those men,” he explained.
In referring to the most recent developments in the case, Roberto González noted that “the main thing is that they are still being unjustly held after eight years,” and that “in reality, we will not achieve their freedom without international solidarity.”
It is impossible not to mention the year 2005 in any review of the legal process. What do you think?
“Yes. In 2005, freedom seemed close for René, Fernando, Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio. After their families took their case to the Human Rights Commission, it was possible to obtain the opinion of five experts from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, concluding that their imprisonment was illegal and arbitrary, and they noted several violations of the legal procedures against them.
“For example, the process implemented against them is one used in cases of national security, and that is a big lie. Everyone knows that there is no evidence in that respect.
“Moreover, the Five were subjected to 17 months of solitary confinement as a pressure mechanism to achieve agreements of guilt on false events. They were judged in the hostile environment of Miami, where political and economic power is held by the same terrorist organizations that they were monitoring, and the media there engaged in a campaign before, during and after the trial to ensure a guilty verdict.
“Taking into account all those aspects, the UN Human Rights Commission said that U.S. government should end those arbitrary detentions; however, the latter responded that that was a ridiculous opinion and it would not recognize it, because it was a manipulation by Cuba. That was in May 2005.
“In August, the three-judge panel overseeing the appeal ruled exactly the same as the Human Rights Commission: that the trial of the Five should be annulled and the sentences overturned for the same reasons put forward by the Working Group.
“However, the three judges went even further, and ratified that the Five had infiltrated Miami-based terrorist organizations, and determined that the presence of those same terrorists in the Court established security concerns for the members of the jury. They came to the conclusion that there should be a retrial.
“Apparently, the legal system was telling the other branch of power, the executive, that it had been badly represented in court, and that is where the two merged – legal and executive – because the request was issued by the federal government, from the U.S. Attorney’s office, resorting to an option allowed by law in exceptional cases: for the ruling by the three-judge panel to be reconsidered by a plenum of the 12 judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. An alliance had been broken; that community in Miami had been betrayed; the legal system had interfered in the alliance, and that was politically unacceptable for the United States administration.”
Where are we now?
“Exactly one year later, on August 9, 2006, the plenum issued a new ruling, revoking the previous ruling. Given that the three-judge panel only gave their opinion on the question of form; that is, they concentrated on the fact that Miami was not the appropriate place for an impartial trial against the Five, now they had to issue one on other aspects, given that the case had come back into their hands in order to discuss the issues that had remained pending. They are fundamentally nine questions.
“Additional information has been requested from both sides, both defense and prosecution, and has been handed in.
“Among other issues, the judges must decide on the crimes of conspiracy against the United States; conspiracy to commit murder and espionage; whether or not we Cubans have the right to defend ourselves or not; and some procedural issues. That is where the trap lies, because the judges could continue prolonging the case; meanwhile, there are five men imprisoned in the United States for combating terrorism. Pressure is placed on both them personally and their families; visits are prohibited for some and made less frequent for others, and eight years after their arrest, the legal system in that country has been unable to respond as to whether or not the trial was carried out correctly or not.
“That is to say, we are discussing, eight years after their arrest, the initial petition made by their lawyers in May 1999, and the worst of it is that we don’t know when they are going to do it, because until the three-judge panel and the court plenum resolve all of the pending issues, we cannot go on to the next step in the legal system, which is the Supreme Court. This means that that same legal system is making the trial of the Five an infinite process, which is evidently in the service of the U.S. government, and not of justice!”
Among the pending matters, if the judges decided to eliminate charge No. 5, regarding conspiracy to commit murder, brought against Gerardo...
“Miami loses its case, because this is the charge that gives flavor to the trial; however, I would like to clarify that the trial is a political one even without this charge.
“The crimes of conspiracy to commit espionage, failing to register as a foreign agent and false identity have an impact on the United States as a government – the victim is the United States, in that case — but by including the false charge of conspiracy to commit murder, Miami becomes the leading character.
“It is from there, from Miami, where the legal suits have been established, where the money is, where compensation has been received. The trial is completely political, but certainly, it would be a very heavy blow for Miami if that charge were to be finally removed, and which in any case could never be proven, and the government itself tried to modify it, recognizing that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain it.”
Mid-term elections have just taken place in the United States. Could the current political situation in any way affect the course of the case; that is, the existing relationship of forces favoring the Democratic Party?
“Independently of the changes, our hope in freeing them lies in our work, in the battle that we are waging without stopping. Remember that our blockade is almost 50 years old, and that both Republicans and Democrats have maintained it; our 3,478 dead were killed under both Republican and Democratic administrations; and the ambition with respect to our land is held by both Republicans and Democrats.
“The day the socialist bloc disappeared, Fidel said that we were going to defend ourselves with our own shield. I think that our strength and solidarity are what make that shield great for us, and there can be no other illusion.
“He (Fidel) has also affirmed that the Five will return, and said that the world would learn about them, that the world needs to know who they are keeping in their imperialist prisons, and that when the world knows what kind of individual, what kind of intelligence is being held captive, it would support that cause, and that would be the channel that would enable us to bring them home.
“That is why I think that the Five will be free one day, and that the conditions for that to happen must be provided by us, with our constant battle. We cannot become overconfident; despite the progress made we must continue spreading the issue and the publicity campaigns. Every moment of this struggle must signify another step toward the return of our brothers.”