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Who are the Cuban Five?
The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are unjustly imprisoned in the United States after being arrested by the FBI on Sept. 12, 1998 and convicted in U.S. federal court in Miami in 2001, in a political prosecution by the U.S. government.
They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.*
The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.
The Five’s actions were never directed at the U.S. government. They never engaged in nor planned any conspiracy against the government.
As the Cuban Five pointed out in their defense, they were on a mission in Miami, beginning in 1990, to monitor the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent those groups from carrying out attacks on their country of Cuba.
They never harmed anyone nor ever possessed nor used any weapons on their mission. Their objective was simply protecting people from terrorism.
For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in hundreds of terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. A total of 3,478 Cubans have died as a result of terrorist violence, and 2,099 have been injured.
Avowedly violent organizations like Comandos F-4, Brothers to the Rescue, Cuban American National Foundation’s armed wing, and individuals like Luis Posada Carriles, have operated with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba—with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.
The U.S. government refused to act to arrest or prosecute well-known, notorious terrorists in Miami, despite overwhelming evidence of their crimes.
The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attack and to thwart the terrorists’ plots.
The aim of such a clandestine operation by the Cuban Five—at great personal risk—was to prevent criminal acts, and thus protect the lives of Cubans and other people.
But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five ANTI-terrorists on September 12, 1998. The Five were illegally held in solitary confinement for 17 months in Miami prison. The seven-month trial began in November 2000, and at the time of the trial was the longest trial in the United States.
With the trial based in Miami, a virtual witch-hunt atmosphere existed, in which defendants identified as supportive of Cuba could not hope to receive an impartial trial. Defense attorneys’ motions for a change of venue were denied several times by Judge Joan Lenard.
The Cuban Five were convicted June 8, 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December, 2001.
A major victory in appeals, then a reversal
On August 9, 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Cuban Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. In a unanimous 93-page decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial. The court called their prosecution “a perfect storm” of pervasive community prejudice, government misconduct and extensive negative publicity before and during the trial.
However, the Bush administration appealed, and exactly one year after the favorable ruling granting the Five a new trial, the full panel of the 11th Circuit Court ruled to reverse their victory. Their convictions were reinstated, although later court decisions reduced the sentences of three of the Five, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, in October and December 2009.
* (René González was released on Oct. 7, 2011 after completing his sentence, but the court, in a punitive measure, is denying him the right to return to Cuba to his family, and instead requiring him to serve a 3-year probation sentence in the United States).
Public support for their freedom is critical
This case is a political case and the Cuban Five are political prisoners.
Their freedom will depend not only on the arduous work of the defense team but just as importantly, on the public support that can be organized. Over 350 committees have been established in the United States and around the world, demanding immediate freedom for Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.
Important declarations have been made by hundreds of parliamentarians in Britain, Italy, and the European and Latin American Parliaments. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, composed of five judges, ruled in May 2005 that there were irregularities in the Five’s trial and arrest, effectively denying them a fair trial. The Working Group — in its only decision regarding a trial in the United States — calls on the U.S. government to remedy this injustice.
In the United States, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is working very hard to build broad support for these anti-terrorist heroes, with forums and video showings, media and publicity work, marches, petitions and other publicity.
The year 2012 will be critical for the struggle to win freedom for the Cuban Five. Call or write us! Find out how you can do your part to win justice for five men who dedicated their lives to save others.
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