- Created: Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:50
- Written by Hannah Caller
On 4 June a US federal appeals court upheld convictions against the Cuban 5, political prisoners held in US gaols. At the same time it decided the sentences against three of them were too harsh, including two who are serving life sentences. These cases have been sent back to the Florida federal court for resentencing. Hannah Caller reports on the frame-up in the case of the Cuban 5.
At the time of their arrest in 1998, the Cuban 5 were working in the US for the Cuban government, infiltrating Miami-based terrorist groups and gathering information to prevent further attacks against Cuba. In September 1998 they were arrested and charged on 26 counts, including espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or damage to property. After 17 months in solitary confinement they were put on trial in Miami, which has a huge Cuban exile community, largely hostile to the Revolution. Defence attorneys argued for a change of venue but this was denied and the 5 were found guilty. In 2005 the convictions of the 5 were overturned by a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and a retrial was to be held outside Miami. However, a 12-judge panel of the same court reversed this decision and no retrial was held.
The latest appeal outcome
As a result of the latest appeal decision Antonio Guerrero (life sentence plus ten years) and Ramon Labanino (life sentence plus 18 years) have had their life sentences removed and Fernando Gonzalez (19 years) is due to have his sentence reduced. Unbelievably their sentences will go before Joan Lenard, the same judge who issued disproportionate sentences in the first place. In its 99-page ruling the appeals court found that Judge Lenard committed serious errors in the original trial. Despite this, the court of appeals is returning the case to her.
Rene Gonzalez (15 years) and Gerardo Hernandez (two life sentences plus 15 years) had their sentences upheld. In Gerardo’s case, the decision was split two to one. The judge who voted in his favour wrote a 16-page opinion stating that Gerardo is innocent of the charge against him of conspiracy to commit murder.
The legal team will now ask the three judges to review their decision, after which they will have the right to go to the US Supreme Court to review some or all of the issues presented.
The political battle continues
The case of the Cuban 5 exposes the hypocrisy of the US’s ‘war on terror’. Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were leaders of terror networks in Miami. Now they are both free men in the US while the Cuban 5, who were trying to stop terrorism, are held in maximum security prisons.