- Two web sites, among others, provide information on their
case, accessed through the following links:
- In September 1998, Miami FBI agents arrested Gerardo
Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzales, and Rene
Gonzalez on spurious charges, including conspiracy to commit espionage.
For days, however, no formal notification was given until a complicit media
campaign smeared them falsely and maliciously.
- At a June 2, 2010 Washington National Press Club press
conference, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five's coordinator,
Gloria La Riva, announced new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) obtained
evidence revealing names of 14 journalists who "were receiving covertly
(paid) monies from the US government."
- Included was Pablo Alfonso who received $58,600 for 16
articles published in (the south Florida Spanish language) El Nuevo Herald
newspaper. La Riva explained that "During the pre-trial period, there
were hundreds of articles on the Cuban Five and not one was favorable."
Journalists were bribed to write them.
- According to the National Lawyers Guild Heidi Boghosian,
"This shows that the US Government was an accomplice to manipulating
the jury by bribing journalists that violated the principles of impartiality
- She also affirmed that the Five's Sixth Amendment right
to a fair trial was violated, federal authorities corrupting the process
to convict them.
- On September 9, 2006, New York Times writer Abby Goodnough
headlined, "US Paid 10 Journalists for Anti-Castro Reports,"
- "The Bush administration's Office of Cuba Broadcasting
paid (them) to provide commentary on Radio and TV Marti, which transmit"
anti-Castro propaganda to Cuba. Journalists named included Pablo Alfonso
getting almost $175,000 since 2001 and Armstrong Williams (a notorious
right wing liar) receiving $240,000 to write on various issues, including
privatizing public education.
- On September 14, 1998, a Florida grand jury accused the
Five of infiltrating terrorist groups, charging them with 26 offenses,
including conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States and espionage.
For lack of evidence, the latter charge became conspiracy to commit it.
- Gerardo Hernandez was separately accused of voluntary
homicide, relating to the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue plane
shot down for illegally entering Cuban air space, though no evidence linked
him to the event. Other charges involved using false documents and for
not registering as foreign agents.
- Throughout their 12 year ordeal, they've been horrifically
treated. Pre-trial for 17 months, they were isolated in a Special Housing
Unit, for many weeks in separate cells. After a successful legal motion,
two each per cell followed; one, however, still alone in isolation.
- The five men were in America monitoring Miami-based,
US funded, extremist right-wing group terrorist activities against Cuba.
Ongoing for decades, declassified US documents showed that from October
1960 - April 1961 alone, CIA operatives smuggled in 75 tons of explosives
and 45 tons of weapons. During the period, 110 attacks were carried out,
using dynamite and bombs against 150 factories, 800 plantations, and six
- From 1959 - 1997, US funded groups and CIA operatives
committed around 5,800 terrorist acts, hundreds involving bombings that
killed or injured thousands of civilians. In addition, from 1959 - 2003,
61 planes or boats were hijacked. From 1961 - 1996, 58 sea attacks were
launched against dozens of economic targets and the civilian population.
- Evidence shows CIA recruitment and support for over 4,000
individuals and 300 paramilitary groups, responsible for murdering hundreds
of Cubans and injuring thousands, many permanently disabled. Fidel Castro
himself was targeted hundreds of times unsuccessfully.
- Moreover, chemical and biological warfare was conducted.
In 1971, a biological attack contaminated half a million pigs, then killed
to prevent swine fever from spreading. In 1981, introduced dengue fever
affected over 340,000 people, killing at least 158 including 101 children.
On July 6, 1982 alone, around 11,400 cases were registered.
- South Florida is a hotbed of anti-Castro extremism, CIA
operatives complicit in training and funding planned terrorist attacks,
likely still ongoing. On June 16, 1998, Cuban authorities asked FBI officials
to provide documents on known US-sponsored extremists to no avail. Three
months later, the Cuban 5 were arrested for risking their lives legally
for their country, monitoring subversive Americans to warn Havana of impending
attacks. They harmed no one, committed no crime, did nothing illegal, had
no weapons, nor did 119 volumes of testimonies and over 20,000 court pages
of documents contain any evidence against them.
- Beginning in November 2000, their politically-charged
trial was orchestrated to convict. Little more than a seven month show
trial, the South Florida venue alone prevented judicial fairness. Five
times, in fact, motions to change it were denied, despite clear evidence
a fair trial was impossible. As a result, on June 8, 2001, the men were
convicted, then in December sentenced to four life terms and 75 years.
- For being loyal Cuban citizens serving their country
heroically, they were criminally charged, convicted in a witch hunt proceeding,
and imprisoned. Commiting no crime, they legally monitored US-sponsored
terrorist groups, including Brothers to the Rescue, Omega 7, Alpha 66,
Brigada 2506, Comandos F4, and other anti-Castro elements.
- So far, they've been denied justice, though on August
9, 2005, after seven years in prison, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh
Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their convictions, ordering a new trial
outside Miami. However, on October 31, the entire Court halted the ruling,
ordering an "en banc" (full court) 12 judge hearing. In August
2006, the Court reversed the 2005 decision (10 - 2), affirming the District
- An Independent Legal Opinion
- In December 2007, UK attorney Steve Cottingham, a partner
at OH Parsons & Partners Solicitors, titled an article on the case
"Miami Five: Who Are Terrorists," saying:
- The trial was "profoundly flawed....their (prison)
conditions....inhumane, and they were fall guys in an attempt to cover
up the US's support for illegal activity to overthrow the (legitimate)
government of the Republic of Cuba."
- With the trial venue in Miami, defense laywers knew fair
proceedings were impossible. As a result, they commissioned a survey for
proof. "The Court-appointed defense expert on psychology, Dr. Gary
Moran PhD, testified that 69 per cent of all respondents (in Dade County)
and 74 per cent of all Hispanic (ones) were prejudiced against people charged
with the types of activities outlined in the indictment." In addition,
49% of all those surveyed said a fair and impartial trial was impossible.
- As a result, the defense requested a venue change several
times, each application denied. Prior to trial, the local media poisoned
public opinion with malicious accusations and more. Moreover, despite careful
jury selection, the charged atmosphere imposed overwhelming pressure to
- On December 2, 2000, the Nuevo Herald newspaper published
an article, saying:
- "Fears of a violent reaction by Cuban exiles against
the jury that decides to acquit the Five men accused of spying for Cuba
has caused many potential jurors to ask the judge to excuse them from their
civic duty." One said, "Sure I'm afraid for my safety, if the
verdict doesn't suit the Cuban community there." Clearly, the challenge
for the defense was too great to overcome, at trial producing the inevitable
- Proceedings included 43 witnesses for the prosecution,
31 for the defense, lasting nearly seven months, as well as hundreds of
documents for jurors to review. A key prosecution witness, General James
R. Clapper (with 30 years experience in military intelligence) testified
that they contained no secret national defense information helpful to Cuba.
Key defense witnesses, including retired Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, said
the Cuban military threat to America is "zero."
- Nonetheless, on June 8, 2001, "Despite the lack
of evidence of espionage or damage to US interests, the jury took a remarkably
short time to convict all the Five on all counts...."
- Numerous legal violations and improprieties were committed
from time of arrests through proceedings, including:
- -- defendants had no immediate access to lawyers;
- -- they were interrogated for many hours without counsel;
- -- they were unjustly isolated for 17 months;
- -- thousands of pages of alleged evidence were kept secret;
- -- defendants were denied adequate access to counsel
to prepare their defense;
- -- prosecutors threatened several witnesses with charges
as accomplices if they revealed any information to defense counsel;
- -- the Miami venue denied defendants a fair trial;
- -- the local and national media created a charged atmosphere
- -- reports indicated that jurors were threatened with
death if they voted for acquittal; and
- -- the entire process, including jurors, assured conviction,
proceedings, in fact, a travesty of justice sending innocent men to prison.
- Moreover, from arrest to incarceration, numerous domestic
and international laws were violated, including the Constitution, Federal
Bureau of Prisons regulations, the UN Convention against Torture and other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
the Vienna Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on
Children's Rights, the UN Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners,
and the American Convention on Human Rights.
- The Five were imprisoned in different parts of the country,
their families denied visas and visiting rights, and although model prisoners,
they were held in isolation.
- They remain imprisoned, but not without hope. In February
2009, their attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court for a new trial. The
original one, in fact, was the only judicial process in US history condemned
by the UN Human Rights Commission. Ten Nobel Prize winners also petitioned
the US Attorney General to free the Five. In 2009, however, the Supreme
Court declined to hear the case without comment.
- Amnesty International (AI) strongly criticized US treatment
as human rights violations, saying in early 2006:
- It was "following closely the status of the ongoing
appeals of the five men (with regard to) numerous issues challenging the
fairness of the trial which have not yet been addressed by the appeal courts."
- In January 2007, AI called for US authorities to grant
family members visas to visit their loved ones, saying America's actions
were "unnecessarily punitive" by denying them.
- In the UK, 110 MPs petitioned the US Attorney General
in support of the Five. In April 2009, the Brazilian human rights group,
Torture Never Again, awarded the men its Chico Mendes Medal, alleging their
rights were violated, including by having "their mail censored and
their visiting rights very restricted."
- A Final Comment
- On September 15, Bernie Dwyer, an Irish journalist and
filmmaker, interviewed Leonard Weinglass, a member of the Five's defense
- "The five should have been returned to Cuba shortly
after their arrest, as is the custom when foreigners are arrested in the
United States on missions for their home countries and their activities
here caused no harm."
- Instead, they were "subjected to cruel conditions
of confinement, unjustly prosecuted in (an unfair venue) victimized by
(prosecutorial) misconduct....and excessively and illegally punished with
- After the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal,
"an outpouring of public support (followed), including (from) 10 Nobel
Prize winners, the bar associations of many countries, the entire Mexican
Senate, two former (European Union) presidents," parliamentarians
from other countries, heads of state, trade union leaders, student associations,
human rights organizations, and dozens of distinguished figures globally.
- On June 14, 2010, "We filed (and) will be filing
a Memorandum of Law on October 11. The government will be given 60 days
to respond and then presumably at the end of this year or in early 2011,
we will have a hearing on Gerado (Herandez's) claims in Miami." If
denied, it will be appealed, and if again, "once again (we'll) ask
the Supreme Court to review the case."
- Asked whether worldwide free the Five campaigns have
helped, Weinglass said "Absolutely, (and they) should be continued
and if anything increased" as the best way to achieve justice for
these unjustly imprisoned men.
- On October 13, 2010 AI issued a report and sent a letter
to Eric Holder on the Five, expressing concerns about the fairness of their
trial, while taking no position on their guilt or innocence, a disturbing
part of it as their innocence is beyond question.
- Nonetheless, AI asked the Justice Department "to
review the case and mitigate any injustice through the clemency process
or other appropriate means, should further legal appeals prove ineffective."
It also reiterated concerns about the wives of two of the prisoners (Rene
Gonzales and Gerardo Hernandez) denied temporary visas to visit their husbands.
- On October 19 at the US Embassy in London, a Vigil for
the Five will be held. Noted speakers include UK MPs, labor leaders, lawyers,
musicians, and many others. Those attending are urged to "Bring candles
to this peaceful vigil for the Five and their families to mark the 12th
year of their unjust imprisonment."
- The Five and many hundreds of other US political prisoners
bear testimony to America's judicial unfairness, imprisoning innocent men
and women for political advantage in violation of constitutional and fundamental
international human rights laws, ones US authorities repeatedly flout with
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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