FIVE CUBAN POLITICAL PRISONERS
Do you want to know:
Why there are five Cuban political prisoners in the US?...
Who are they?...
Why were they arrested?...
On September 12, 1998, the FBI detained 5 Cubans alleging that they were under surveillance for four years: Gerardo Hernández, René González, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and Antonio Guerrero. For five years, these five young men have been in a maximum security prison. They have been punished with solitary confinement for periods as long as 17 months; they have been denied bail or appeal, and also, denied the right to be visited by their families.
What are the accusations against them?
On June 8, 2001, after months of trial and five days of deliberation, a jury formed by 12 people concluded that “Gerardo Hernández, René González, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and Antonio Guerrero have endangered US national security”.
After staying in a federal prison in Miami for 39 months, the five Cubans were unfairly charged with espionage for the Cuban revolutionary government and sentenced harsh prison terms in December 2001.
The case against them had 26 different charges, citing specific crimes for each one of them. For the most part, they were minor charges related with fake ID usage. The serious charges – espionage for Cuba and murder, related with the shooting down of small American aircraft over Cuban waters – had life in prison as their punishment, even if they were crimes actually committed, but as “conspiracy for an upcoming act”
The accusation of “conspiracy to commit murder” brought against Gerardo Hernández has no precedents in US courts. It quickly became the central focus of the trial and had to do with two small aircraft, belonging to the Miami-based group “Brothers to the Rescue”, downed by the Cuban Air Force on February 24, 1996, as they insisted in going over Cuban airspace. The leader of the group was José Basulto, a known terrorist who lived in Miami, a Bay of Pigs invasion veteran, and along with Posada Carriles, responsible for the Barbados Crime where more the 70 innocent people were killed.
The utilization of the term “conspiracy” in the trial of these five Cubans removed the necessity of proving that a crime had actually been committed.
"Conspiracy" is a term that classifies the agreement or "the agreement of the wills" as a crime when the intentions or the acts preceding the crime are illegal. The prosecutors had obtained control over the evidences that the jury had the right to have access. This way, the access to crucial materials was denied to the Defense, such as what the prosecutors had collected during their investigation, some of which were documents that had been confiscated from the defendants when they were arrested.
When noticing that their case was weak and was beginning to fall apart, the Prosecutor, in his last argument presented to the Jury, used the false and rejected rhetoric of the United States Government against the five Cubans affirming, not less than three times that the defendants had come to America "determined to destroy the United States".
What’s the truth?
Who are they?
What were they doing in the US?
These five Cubans were all professional, honest, cultured people, loving of their families, sociable, with exemplary behavior in their communities and at their work places. Two of them had been born in the US - they were protecting its country from the organized terrorist actions, undertaken and financed from Miami. These organized terrorist acts based in Miami had antecedents in the invasions and sabotages against Cuba, as well as in attempts on its leaders and murders of its diplomats and other officials, among others. The work of these five Cuban was exactly to prevent these terrorist actions! They had infiltrated inside of some of these terrorist organizations with headquarters in Miami to be able to alert the Cuban Government as well as United States authorities on the acts of terrorism planned by these groups.
In fact, the five Cubans had been able to prevent 170 terrorist actions planned by these terrorist groups, by notifying Cuban authorities about these plans.
On June 17, 1998 - months before the arrest of the five accused Cubans - the Government of Cuba delivered to the FBI documents, tests, photos and other information that constituted evidence on plans of murders, bombs, arsons and other attacks against Cuba planned, financed and carried out from Miami. The Cuban authorities had asked the FBI to stop the impunity of the involved terrorists, helping to prevent those attacks. The FBI promised Cuban authorities that would act in the matter of weeks from the date when this information was delivered in Havana. But instead of arresting the involved terrorists in these terrorist actions, the FBI arrested the source of the information: the five antiterrorist Cubans.
Espionage – with public information?...
In accordance with the US Law against espionage, the information that is available for the public cannot constitute a base for a case of espionage.
One of the expert keys of the accusation, General James R. Clapper Jr.; a man with 32 years of experience in the US army, specialized in intelligence matters as a former director of the National Security Agency; had studied the confiscated documents of the five indicted Cubans and when asked if he “had encountered any secret information regarding national security that had been given to Cuba”, he answered “no, nothing that I’m aware of”. Other than the general, many former high ranking army officials testified declaring that Cuba is not a military threat to the US and that in the military base of Boca Chica it is not possible to obtain information regarding the military.
The prosecutors only had the information that one the five charged Cubans, Antonio Guerrero, had been a maintenance person for the Navy training base of Boca Chica, in South Florida. This base was totally open to the public, and even had a special observation area for the visitors to take pictures of the parked military planes. The information which Antonio Guerrero had access to were absolutely public. That meant that the espionage charge had no foundation at all!
According to International Law, it does not constitute crime or murder that Cuba – or any other nation – shoots down airplanes that breach their airspace without authorization. Cuba did not provoke the Feb. 24, 1996 incident – on the contrary: tried to stop it, alerting the crew of the airplane not to enter Cuban airspace.
For that reason, the judge decided that for this charge on Gerardo Hernández to be taken under consideration, the prosecutors had to demonstrate the existence of a plan or specific agreement to shoot airplanes down in international waters. If they could not prove that argument, the US had no jurisdiction over this case and the prosecutor could not prove the key element for the indictments: that there was an agreement or plan for shooting down airplanes out of Cuban jurisdiction, in international waters or over territory “under special maritime jurisdiction”, denominated by the US. The prosecutors recognized that they had no means to prove it. However, Gerardo Hernández was convicted and ordered to life in prison terms, plus 15 years over that. The jury dictated the conviction in record time. In reality, Gerardo Hernández or any of the other four were in Miami at the time that the incident occurred, and none were involved in transmission or execution of the order to shoot down after the aircraft ignored the warnings.
An absurd and arbitrary trial
US Law says that if anyone acts to prevent a worse act while committing a lesser crime in the process, it will be justified if society recognizes the necessity or the benefit of those actions.
Knowing this, the ones accused of using fake names recognized those crimes and the fact that they didn’t register as foreign agents. They stated that the charges against them had to be justified under the necessity doctrine, and the fact that they used their false identities to prevent a higher crime – in this specific case: the acts of terrorism against Cuba. Even though they presented 35 documents that proved the threat posed by the Miami terrorist network, this appeal was refused by the Court.
In 2003, the defense lawyers presented the following arguments for the appeal on the 11th Appeals Circuit Court in Atlanta:
- The accused were denied the possibility of being tried in a just manner, for the trial took place in Miami, an improper location given its lack of impartiality for the anti-Cuban tendencies there concentrated.
- The conspiracy for espionage was not proven; there was reasonable doubt.
- The charge for conspiracy for murder, in the case of Gerardo Hernández, was not only unable to be demonstrated, but it had no precedent in US law, for the fact that the planes were shot down to defend a nation’s sovereignty, territory, and people.
- The sentences were excessive, the secret procedures invoked by the US government were improper, and the conduct of the trial was inappropriate. Those were substantial violations of the US Constitution.
- Any action by the five Cubans accused, all of them with no weapons, and related with an alleged spy action, is justified by the Necessity Doctrine; thus, the accused are forgivable under the Law.
On September 29, 2003, the US government presented its answer to the appeals. The defense presented its reply on November 17 of the same year. The oral arguments took place on March 10, 2004 in Miami FL, where three judges from the 11th Appeals Circuit Court were present.
On August 9, 2005, the three judges published their decision, unanimously determining the annulment of the trial, revoking the sentences and ordering a new trial.
The Court recognized the five Cuban’s right to be tried in a non-hostile atmosphere and to have a fair trial in accordance to the US Constitution. This Court declared, among other things, that new evidence sustained the motion presented by the Defense in November 2002 soliciting a new trial, and the nature of that evidence would certainly produce a different outcome.
The Atlanta Court scheduled for February 2006 the oral arguments for the appeal requested by the prosecutors. As an extraordinary decision, the panel composed by its 12 judges will reconsider the unanimous verdict of August 9, 2005, which annulled the outcome of the whole trial.
Now that the trial was invalidated, there is no reason for them to remain in jail. This arbitrary situation, detrimental to them and their families, cannot go on.
For seven years, these five young men remain in maximum security prisons. The have been in solitary confinement for extended periods of time and for two of them, it was denied the right to be visited by their families. The incarceration was already declared illegal by the Arbitrary Detention Team of the UN’s Human Rights Committee.
Freedom now for the Five Anti-Terrorist Cubans!