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News :: Human Rights
Victory for the Cuban Five
10 Aug 2005
On Aug. 9, in a historic victory for revolutionary Cuba, a three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta declared the Draconian sentences imposed on the Cuban Five to be null and void.
Victory for the Cuban Five

By Minnie Bruce Pratt

On Aug. 9, in a historic victory for revolutionary Cuba, a three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta declared the Draconian sentences imposed on the Cuban Five to be null and void.

The Cuban Five are political prisoners in the United States: Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and René González. The appeals court ordered new trials for all five.

Their defense lawyers indicated they would immediately seek release on bail for the Five.

In 2001, the men were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder in a politically motivated prosecution that targeted the Five for monitoring far-right terrorist groups in Miami. These groups, such as Alpha 66, have an extensive and public record of violence against socialist Cuba, including a 1976 Cubana Airline that killed 73 people.

The Five's sentences ranged from 15 years to life. They have now been in jail for seven years.

At a news conference after the decision was announced, defense lawyers Leonard Weinglass and Phil Horowitz called the legal victory “historic’ and a “landmark case.’ They said it establishes a precedent on what is required for a fair trial in the United States.

The judges' unanimous ruling was based on one aspect of the Five's appeal: the fact that a fair trial for them had been impossible because the venue--the trial's location in Miami--was saturated with prejudice against revolutionary Cuba. The original judge in the case denied the defense request for a change in venue five times.

The appeals court cited over 100 incidents of bias during the trial. These included statements and actions hostile to Cuba by jurors, members of the community, the media and prosecuting attorneys. The judges mentioned the case of Elián González as an example of the local community's anti-Cuba bias, and acknowledged the massive documentation of prejudice supplied by the Five's defense team.

Most significantly, the court mentioned the terrorist actions of right-wing paramilitary anti-Cuba groups in southern Florida as a factor in shaping a dramatically unfair venue for the trial of the Five.

Teresa Gutierrez, a leader with the National Committee to Free the Five, said: “The decision confirms what supporters of the Five have been saying all along, that their prosecution was biased, unfair and politically motivated. This is a wonderful victory for the Five and for the people of Cuba. We won't rest until they get home.’

Gutierrez added that the court's ruling reflects worldwide outrage at the U.S. government, which has seized and imprisoned thousands of people nationally and internationally with its “anti-terrorist’ campaign launched in an “endless war’ strategy of imperial expansion.

The United States has held many people secretly, refusing to release their names and locations. Locked up with no access to lawyers or families, many are brutally tortured, as in the prisons of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled May 27 that the imprisonment of the Cuban Five violated international law.

The panel held that “the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality which is required in order to conclude [there was] observance of the standards of a fair trial.’ (Associated Press)

Now, two months later, a U.S. Court has conceded this point--but only because of years of concerted struggle by the Cuban people and their allies all over the world.

The next step, according to Gloria La Riva of the Free the Five Committee, is for supporters to work to unite the Five with their families.

La Riva also announced that the struggle against U.S.-financed terror attacks on Cuba will continue with an Aug. 29 protest in El Paso, Texas, on the opening day of Luis Posada Carriles' extradition hearing.

Sentenced to prison in Venezuela for his role in the Cubana Airline bombing, Posada Carriles escaped with CIA assistance and entered the United States with impunity. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is seeking Posada Carriles' return to that country to stand trial for terrorism.

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