Court upholds convictions of Cuban Five, vacates 3 sentences
by Walter Putnam
June 4, 2008
Reprinted from Associated Press
A federal appeals court has again upheld the politically charged convictions of five Cuban intelligence agents accused of spying in the U.S., but vacated sentences of three of them, including two who are serving life terms.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned those cases to a federal judge in Miami for resentencing based on findings in an opinion filed Wednesday that the five gathered no "top secret" information. It was the third time the case had come before the court.
The full 11th Circuit court already upheld the convictions of the so-called "Cuban Five" in August 2006. It rejected claims that their federal trial should have been moved from Miami because of widespread opposition among Cuban-Americans there to the communist Cuban government.
The five have been lionized as heroes in Cuba, while exile groups say they were justly punished.
In the appeal ruled on Wednesday, the five challenged a judge's refusal to suppress evidence from searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, sovereign immunity, discovery procedures, jury selection and alleged lack of evidence to support their convictions.
"We conclude that the arguments about the suppression of evidence, sovereign immunity, discovery, jury selection and the trial are meritless, and sufficient evidence supports each conviction," Circuit Judge William H. Pryor wrote.
The latest decision included the life sentence for Gerardo Hernandez, who was convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots shot down by Cuban jets in 1996. The panel split 2-1 to uphold Hernandez' life term.
The four slain pilots flew planes that were part of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, which dropped pro-democracy pamphlets on the island.
Hernandez and the others - Ruben Campa, also known as Fernando Gonzalez; Rene Gonzalez; Luis Medina, aka Ramon Labanino; and Antonio Guerrero - were members of what was known by Cuban intelligence as The Wasp Network.
The panel vacated the life terms of Medina and Guerrero and Campa's 19-year sentence, agreeing with their contentions that their sentences were improperly configured because no "top secret information was gathered or transmitted." The judges concurred with Campa that his sentence was too strict because he was not a manager of supervisor of the network.
The five acknowledged being Cuban agents but said they were not spying on the United States. They said their focus was on U.S.-based exile groups planning "terrorist" actions against the Castro government.
After a trial that lasted six months, they were convicted in 2001 of acting as unregistered Cuban agents in the United States and of espionage conspiracy for attempting to penetrate U.S. military bases.
A three-judge 11th Circuit panel overturned the convictions in 2005, saying there should have been a change of venue. But the full court reversed that decision, 10-2.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five denounced the decision to uphold the convictions.
"It flies in the face of the truth. The five men are not guilty of any crime," said Gloria La Riva, the committee coordinator. "They were saving lives by stopping terrorism. They never had weapons. They never posed any harm to the people of the United States."
Read the decision here (pdf)
U.S. court upholds conviction of Cuban spies
by Tom Brown
June 4, 2008
Reprinted from Reuters
MIAMI, June 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of five Cubans serving long prison sentences for spying and conspiracy to commit murder but opened the door to new and possibly lighter sentences for three of the men.
FBI agents arrested the five in 1998 and they were convicted in 2001 of 26 counts of spying on the Cuban exile community in Miami on behalf of Fidel Castro's government.
Lawyers for the men, in an August 2007 filing with the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, said they deserved a new trial because the prosecution made statements in closing arguments that violated court rules and because the sentences were harsher than the crimes deserved.
The appeals court rejected arguments that the convictions should be overturned but said the federal court in Miami may have erred when it imposed the sentences against three of the men in 2001.
The so-called "Cuban Five" are celebrated by many in Cuba as national heroes who were spying on armed exile groups in Miami to prevent attacks on their country and are victims of Washington's campaign against the communist-run island.
To hard-line, anti-Castro members of the Cuban exile community the five agents were justly convicted, however, and Havana's support for them is seen as an example of an anti-U.S. agenda in Cuba dating back to Castro's 1959 revolution.
In Wednesday's ruling, the appellate court affirmed a sentence of two life terms for Gerardo Hernandez, who was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder based on charges he passed information to Havana that led to the 1996 downing by a Cuban MiG fighter jet of two small planes operated by a Miami-based exile group that were flying near Cuba. Four people were killed.
The court also affirmed the 15-year sentence of Rene Gonzalez, who was convicted of acting as an agent for a foreign government and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The sentences of the three other men, two of whom were serving life terms, were vacated and remanded for resentencing proceedings in district court. (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
Convictions for Cuban Five upheld
June 5, 2008
Reprinted from BBC
A US appeals court has upheld the convictions of five Cubans found guilty of spying, but said the sentences of three of them should be reconsidered.
The five men were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 of spying for Fidel Castro's government on Cuban exiles.
Three were given life terms, the other two 15 and 19 years in jail.
The men have appealed against their sentences three times, complaining they were victims of anti-Castro bias and saying they deserve new trials.
One of the sentences upheld by the court was against Gerardo Hernandez.
He was given a life term for giving information leading to the shooting down of two planes operated by Cuban exile groups based in Miami in 1996, which resulted in the deaths of four people.
The court also upheld the sentence of Rene Gonzalez, convicted of acting as an agent for a foreign government and conspiracy to defraud the US.
The cases of the other three men - Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez - were referred to a federal judge in Miami for resentencing. Two are serving life terms.
The Cuban government says the men were not in Miami to spy on the US but to prevent anti-Castro exile groups from launching what it calls terrorist attacks on Cuba.
The men are considered national heroes in Cuba, where they figure prominently on billboards all over the country and are the subject of regular rallies and demonstrations.
Exile groups say they were justly punished.
A US Court Vacates Sentences of Three Convicted in Cuba Spy Case
by Ray Sanchez
June 5, 2008
Reprinted from South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The possibility of reduced sentences for three Cuban agents convicted of spying in the United States offered little solace to relatives and supporters on the island.
A U.S. appeals court Wednesday upheld the convictions of the so-called "Cuban Five" but vacated the sentences of three of the men. Their cases were ordered back to a federal judge in Miami for new sentencing hearings.
A commentator on state television's Mesa Redonda program Wednesday night called the latest decision by the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta "disgraceful" and "painful."
Maria Eugenia Guerrero, sister of Antonio Guerrero, who is serving a life term but whose case was remanded for a new sentencing in Miami, said she had not seen the 99-page decision.
"We have some faith that a new sentence could be more favorable," she said late Wednesday. "The life sentence could be affirmed or it could be reduced to 80 or 50 or 30 years. The hardest part is that there is no acknowledgement of the unjust process and the innocence of 'The Five.'"
In Cuba, where the intelligence agents are hailed as heroes and their faces are plastered on walls and billboards, they are called "The Five." Cuban officials maintain that the men spied, not on the U.S. government, but on exile militants considered terrorists by the state.
The men, who were arrested in South Florida in September 1998, were convicted in 2001. Cuba said the agents were railroaded in politically charged Miami trials.
The appeals court affirmed a sentence of two life terms for Gerardo Hernandez, who was convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots shot down by a Cuban fighter jet in 1996. The pilots flew planes for the Brothers to the Rescue exile organization, which dropped anti-Castro pamphlets on the island.
The panel also affirmed the 15-year sentence of Rene Gonzalez, who was convicted of acting as an agent for a foreign government and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Gonzalez was a pilot at an airport where the exile group kept airplanes.
Olga Salanueva, Gonzalez's wife, said she would not comment until she saw the court decision.
The U.S. has repeatedly denied her a visa to visit her husband on grounds that she was deported in 2000, she said.
The American appeals court also vacated the life term of Luis Medina, also known as Ramon Labanino, and the 19-year prison sentence of Ruben Campa, aka Fernando Gonzalez.
Elizabeth Palmeiro, Labanino's wife, also declined to comment Wednesday night.
"I have to read the whole decision to see whether this is positive or negative," she said.
Said Maria Eugenia Guerrero, "The decision is not what we had expected given the way the appeals have been handled and the way the entire process has played out. Once again we feel ensnarled in a great mess."
Court Upholds Conviction of Cuban Five
June 5, 2008
Reprinted from Democracy Now!
A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of the Cuban Five but vacated the sentences of three of the men. The five Cuban nationals were arrested in 1998 and convicted of spying for the Cuban government. They maintain they were sent to the United States to monitor violent exile groups plotting to overthrow Fidel Castro. On Wednesday, the judges vacated the life terms of two of the men and the nineteen-year sentence of another, after concluding that their sentences were improperly configured because no “top secret information was gathered or transmitted.” The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five denounced the decision to uphold the convictions. Gloria La Riva said, “The five men are not guilty of any crime. They were saving lives by stopping terrorism. They never had weapons. They never posed any harm to the people of the United States.”
11th Circuit Court Upholds Conviction against Cuban Five
June 4, 2008
Reprinted from Radio Havana Cuba
Atlanta, June 4 (RHC)--The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, 3-judge panel, issued its ruling, Wednesday, upholding the convictions of the Five Cuban Heroes, including the espionage conspiracy and murder conspiracy. The life sentences for the espionage conspiracy charges against Antonio, Ramon, and Fernando have been remanded to the Miami trial judge for re-sentencing.
The Free the Five Campaign US are urgently calling on all supporters to join together in their cities and communities, to hold protests in front of U.S. federal buildings or other appropriate places, and in countries outside the United States, wherever possible, at U.S. embassies, consulates or other appropriate symbols.
The US National Committee to Free the Cuban Five has recommended in these past months, an immediate response is extremely important, in order to bring media attention to the injustice against the Cuban Five, and to show the broad national and international support for the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.
|Tribunal de Apelaciones de Atlanta ratifica sentencias injustas a los cinco antiterroristas cubanos
4 de junio de 2008
Reimprimado de Radio Habana Cuba
La Habana, 5 jun (Granma-RHC) Un tribunal federal de apelaciones ratificó este miércoles las condenas de los Cinco antiterroristas cubanos, prisioneros en cárceles de Estados Unidos desde 1998, pero anuló cargos de tres de ellos que deberán ser sentenciados nuevamente en Miami, el único lugar donde no debieron ser jamás juzgados.
El panel de tres jueces del Onceno Circuito de Apelaciones de Atlanta, Georgia, anunció un veredicto de 99 páginas en el que retornó al mismo tribunal de Miami los casos de Ramón Labañino (cadena perpetua más 18 años), Fernando González (19 años) y Antonio Guerrero (cadena perpetua más 10 años). En tanto las sentencias de René González (15 años) y Gerardo Hernández (dos cadenas perpetuas más 15 años) permanecieron firmes.
También será la misma jueza, Joan Lenard, quien deberá convocar una audiencia especial para emitir el próximo fallo. Lenard manifestó durante todo el amañado proceso su mala conducta y dictó en el 2001 tan desproporcionadas condenas.
La Corte de Atlanta dictaminó que "carecían de mérito" los argumentos presentados contra la declaración de culpabilidad de los Cinco.
Resulta curioso que toda esta maniobra se realice en momentos en que al terrorista internacional Luis Posada Carriles también le buscan un acomodo legal para el indulto.
Y que un juez mande a revisar la causa de los Cinco a Miami es otro de los absurdos de este caso.