Evidence against the Cuban Five Found to be Biased
Oct. 24, 2011
Reprinted from Prensa Latina
Havana, Oct 24 (Prensa Latina) The U.S. legal system used information from biased sources to locate the site where two light airplanes were shot down after illegally entering Cuban territory on February 24, 1996, the Havana Reporter weekly reported on Monday.
According to the Cuban newspaper, the revelation is contained in a book by Brazilian researcher Fernando Morais, The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, which recounts the actions of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramon Labañino, Rená González and Gerardo Hernández, five Cubans who, until their arrest in Miami in 1998, were monitoring terrorist actions by anti-Cuban groups based in Florida.
Morais devoted pages 373-376 of his book, published in Portuguese in Brazil in August, to analyze the U.S. version of the events involving the two light airplanes belonging to the anti-Cuban organization Brothers to the Rescue, which supposedly were downed in international waters, contrary to what Cuban authorities say, the English-language weekly edited by Prensa Latina recalled.
During the launch of his book in Brasilia on Sept.15, Morais explained that while conducting his research, he realized that the lawyers for the Cuban Five failed to thoroughly investigate the owner and the company that owned the cruise ship Majesty of the Seas. The first officer of that ship, Norwegian-American Bjorn Johansen, a witness for the prosecution against the Five, admitted that he based his testimony about the site of the shoot-down on a visual observation of the site where his own ship was - which he wrote down on a piece of paper - and not the electronic register that marked the ship's location in the Florida Strait.
That statement by Johansen, who admitted that he talked for hours with FBI agents, was used to justify a sentence of two life terms in prison plus fifteen years prison for Gerardo Hernández. However, a key question failed to be asked, Morais said: who were the owners of the Majesty of the Seas?
On page 375, the writer says that a cursory investigation using the archives of newspapers and of the Cuban-American National Foundation would have provided important information.
Johansen worked for Royal Caribbean Cruises, the group that owned the ship, and in February 1996 his second-in-command was Peter G. Whelpton of the United States, who introduced himself as a member of the Cuban-American National Foundation and director of the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Economic Reconstruction of Cuba, both opposed to the Cuban government.
In his book, Morais also revealed that a series of articles published by The New York Times in 1995, the president of the CANF at the time, Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, included Royal Caribbean Cruises among the 40 firms that contributed $25,000 create his organization. Mysteriously and inexplicably, however, Whelpton's involvement with these Cuban counterrevolutionary forces was not verified or used in the court case.
This information comes in addition to the refusal by the United States government to hand over information from its radars about the exact site where the anti-Cuban organization's two light planes were downed, despite Havana's insistence demand for that information, given that it holds the two planes were shot down over Cuban waters.
To write his book, Morais carried out field research for two years and interviewed 40 people, including 17 in Cuba, 22 in the United States and one in Mexico.
The harsh sentence of two life terms plus 15 years handed down to Hernández is based on evidence that he informed Havana that the two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft would be flying over the Cuban capital on February 24, 1996. In that regard, Morais recalled that the two light aircraft were downed after years of provocations and violations of Cuban airspace by exile groups in Florida.
Based on his investigation, Morais said, that information was completely public.
Also, U.S. State Department documents contained information showing that the U.S. Undersecretary for Hemispheric Affairs warned U.S. aviation authorities about the actions of Brothers to the Rescue and the possibility that the Cuban government would lose its patience and shoot down their planes, Morais said.
Therefore, it is untenable to accuse Gerardo of having passed information that was public, he said.