Justice demands freeing the Cuban Five
article and photos by Cheryl LaBash
August 23, 2007
Reprinted from Workers World
he latest step in the international fight to free the Cuban Five unfolded in Atlanta on Aug. 20, where defense attorneys argued for a new trial before a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court. For a full two hours before the hearing, supporters—including both national and international notables and jurists—lined up along the sidewalk in the summer heat waiting for the courthouse doors to open, and then filled every seat.
On Sept. 12, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, René González and Ramón Labañino begin their tenth year of imprisonment in five separate U.S. prisons—in California, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Colorado. Their only “crime” was to monitor private paramilitary organizations based in Florida that planned and carried out violent attacks against Cuba when the U.S. government did nothing to stop them.
At a reception the evening before the court hearing, attorney Leonard Weinglass summarized the facts to be presented to the court that require either a new, fair trial or outright dismissal of the most serious convictions.
First, Gerardo Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder—a charge the U.S. prosecutors themselves admitted to the court the government could not prove.
“This is the first time in anyone’s memory that an individual person is being held accountable for what an Air Force of a sovereign state does in protecting its own airspace,” Weinglass said about the shooting down of “Brothers to the Rescue” planes that had repeatedly overflown Cuban airspace.
Second, three of the Five—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino—were sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to commit espionage. During the original trial two U.S. generals and an admiral testified that no “secret” classified U.S. government information was among the 20,000 pages of evidence taken from the Five by the U.S. government. These maximum sentences handed out by the Miami court, which violate sentencing guidelines, were equal to those imposed in cases where actual U.S. government secret documents have been given to other governments.
In court, defense attorney Richard Klugh pointed out the Five “were never directed to obtain espionage-level information,” and “are serving a life sentence for what could’ve been published in the Miami Herald.”
The third major point in the appeal argument was the prosecutorial misconduct riddling the entire six-month long trial. One example given by Weinglass occurred during the closing arguments. Prosecutors charged, not once but three times, that the Five aimed to “destroy the United States.” This statement was totally untrue and certainly unproven, but was used to enflame the Miami jury and unjustly convict the Cuban Five.
U.S. government attorney Caroline Heck Miller exposed a small sample of how venomous the prosecution of the Cuban Five could get when, arguing before the appeals court on Aug. 20, she again falsely claimed the Five were “well-trained spies” intending to steal U.S. military intelligence. She accused the 11th Circuit Court of reading only the defense arguments.
At a press conference after the appeal hearing, Heidi Boghosian of the National Lawyers Guild pointed out that it was exposed last year that reporters in Miami had been paid by the U.S. government to print untrue articles about the Five and Cuba at the time their trial was going on.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, now an international human rights attorney, pointed out that in addition to Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch—who orchestrated murderous acts against Cubans including the mid-air bombing of a Cuban passenger airliner—the U.S. government has also welcomed Emmanuel Constant, responsible for thousands of deaths and torture in Haiti, as well as agents of the Shah of Iran, who harassed Iranian students in the U.S. until he was deposed. Clark said to see justice in the case of the Cuban Five, the U.S. should dismiss all charges, admit error, pay them for injuries inflicted on them and their families and provide them unlimited visas for reentry to the U.S.
Andrés Gómez and Ramsey Clark
Cynthia McKinney, former congressional representative from Georgia, said the U.S. had “become what Dr. King feared—the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet.” Referring to the fact that three of the Cuban Five fought alongside the Angolans against South African apartheid, McKinney said she hoped “the Cuban Five can prevail in the U.S. as their fight for justice and a new South Africa prevailed in Africa.”
Observers included Dagoberto Rodríguez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.; Roberto González, Cuban attorney and brother of René González; Ramsey Clark; Cynthia McKinney; Judge Juan Guzmán from Chile, who directed the prosecution of Augusto Pinochet; Dr. Norman Paech MdB, expert in international law, Germany; Heidi Boghosian; Father Geoffrey Bottoms, coordinator, British Campaign to Free the Miami Five; Vanessa Ramos, president, American Association of Jurists USA; José Pertierra, attorney for Venezuela in the extradition case of Posada Carriles; Andrés Gómez, Antonio Maceo Brigade and representative of a coalition of six Cuban organizations from Miami; Alicia Jrapko, International Committee to Free the Five-U.S.; Sobukwe Shakura, co-chair, National Network on Cuba; and many more.
Recent media coverage is finally penetrating the curtain of silence that has surrounded the Cuban Five, including articles in the New York Times, Reuters and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as interviews with the BBC. This important case exposes the U.S. government role not only in attacks on Cuba and its decades-long economic blockade of that socialist island, but the torture, death, destruction and misery inflicted by the U.S. imperialist government in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
The articles are the result of determined organizing by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in the United States, the member organizations of the National Network on Cuba, the International Committee to Free the Five-U.S. and many other individuals and organizations. A call for International Days to Free the Cuban Five, during the period starting with the anniversary of their arrest on Sept. 12 through the anniversary of the mid-air bombing of Cubana flight 455 on Oct. 6, will build on the momentum gathered in Atlanta.
Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Five, said: “A major turning point has been reached in the interest of the press and people of the world for the Five. The Five are a stellar example of the defense of Cuba’s defense of its sovereignty and everything it has done for its people and for the world.” Complete transcripts are available at freethefive.org.
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