A good summary of the Miami Five case
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMnetzero.net
Fri Jun 29 21:47:56 MDT 2001
As some readers of this will remember, I had my differences with the
approach taken by the Militant newspaper, which reflects the views of the
U.S. Socialist Workers Party, on the Elián González case. Despite that, I
wanted to bring to people's attention this article from the current issue of
the paper, which is an excellent summary of the case of the Miami Five,
Cuban patriots imprisoned in the U.S. on trumped-up spying charges. --José
* * *
Vol.65/No.26 July 9, 2001
Cuba responds to U.S. 'spy' convictions
BY GREG MCCARTAN
In a statement featured in the June 20 issue of the Cuban daily Granma, the
government of that country condemned the June 8 convictions in a U.S. court
of five Cuban citizens on espionage and murder charges. The five, the
statement says, were part of an operation to "discover and report on
terrorist plans hatched against our people" in Florida by
counterrevolutionary opponents of the Cuban Revolution.
Three Cubans--Gerardo Hernández, Ramon Labaniño, and Antonio Guerrero--were
convicted in a federal court in Miami of "conspiracy to commit espionage"
and "conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent," and could get life
imprisonment. Fernando González and René González, convicted of "conspiracy
to act as an unregistered foreign agent," face possible 10-year sentences.
Gerardo Hernández also faces a life sentence on charges of "conspiracy to
commit murder" in the deaths of four pilots belonging to the rightist
Brothers to the Rescue. The pilots were shot down by the Cuban air force in
1996, following repeated warnings, after they had provocatively entered
Cuban airspace. The prosecution won the conviction by asserting that
Hernández had provided the Cuban government with flight information about
the Brothers to the Rescue operation.
Assault on rights
The arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the Cubans by U.S. authorities is
a blow not only against revolutionary Cuba, but against the rights of
working people in the United States.
In violation of Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and
seizure, FBI agents broke into the homes of the defendants many times over a
three-year period prior to the arrests and searched through their belongings
and computers. The prosecution's "evidence" consisted of information the FBI
claims it collected from what it says were encoded messages copied from
computer hard drives of the defendants and short-wave radio transmissions
the government claims took place between Cuba and the defendants.
The judge denied a defense motion to move the trial outside of Miami even
though several potential jurors--Cuban-Americans and Latinos in
particular--asked to be disqualified for fear of recriminations if they
voted "not guilty."
The big-business media in the Miami area all but convicted the five of
spying before the trial began and kept up a steady stream of articles and
editorials trying to bolster the government's case and to portray the trial
as fair--even though not a shred of evidence was produced of "military
secrets" supposedly stolen by "spies."
'U.S. assault against Cuba'
The statement in Granma defends the five Cubans as patriots and prints a
message from them "to the American people," stating that they "are the
victims of a terrible injustice." In the letter the imprisoned Cubans say,
"Our tiny nation, which has heroically survived four decades of aggressions
and threats to its national security, of subversion plans, sabotage, and
destabilization, has every right to defend itself from its enemies who keep
using U.S. territory to plan, organize, and finance terrorist actions
breaking your own laws in the process."
With media fanfare, the FBI arrested 10 people in 1998 and announced it had
discovered a "Cuban spy network" in Florida. Those arrested were charged
with trying to "infiltrate" the U.S. Southern Command, passing U.S.
"military secrets" to Havana, and "infiltrating" and "disrupting"
Cuban-American groups-- right-wing outfits that seek to overthrow the
revolutionary government in Cuba. The charge of "conspiracy to commit
murder" was added later.
In a interview with CNN reporter Lucía Newman shortly after the 1998
arrests, Cuban president Fidel Castro said, "Yes, we have sometimes sent
Cuban citizens to infiltrate counterrevolutionary organizations, to report
on destructive actions against our country, and I believe we have the right
to do so as long as the U.S. government tolerates" efforts on its soil to
launch terrorist attacks against Cuba.
This was the stance taken by the Cubans in their defense at the trial. They
were able to present extensive evidence to the court about the character and
scope of the counterrevolutionary activities. Among the witnesses called by
the defense were a former member of Alpha 66 who founded Commandos F-4,
groups that have been responsible for armed attacks against Cuba and
defenders of the Cuban Revolution in Miami.
The defense also put on the stand retired Air Force colonel George Buchner,
who testified that National Security Agency records show that the Brothers
to the Rescue planes were indeed inside Cuban airspace in contradiction to
U.S. government statements.
The defense called to the stand another U.S. official and a Cuba military
officer who said the U.S. government had been warned about a number of
terrorist operations, including the Brothers to the Rescue activities. In
addition, in response to defense questioning under cross-examination,
Brothers to the Rescue leader José Basulto admitted he "broadly supports
exile groups bent on overthrowing Fidel Castro violently."
The effectiveness of these defense efforts moved Ramón Saúl Sánchez, head of
the rightist Democracy Movement, to urge opponents of the Cuban Revolution
not to appear on the witness stand since the defense attorneys had turned
the tables, putting them on trial instead of the defendants.
An article in Granma says that of the 10 arrested, five "were collaborators
and friends who were unable to resist the terrible pressures and threats
exerted on all the detainees." Of those five, four were from married couples
with children who were told by U.S. authorities, according to the Granma
report, that they faced "long prison terms, possibly life sentences, and
that they would lose paternal authority over their children" if they did not
cooperate with the prosecution. The five plea-bargained and received lesser
sentences and the prosecution used their testimony in its case.
Granma noted that the U.S. government had "not been able to break the
[other] prisoners," despite 17 months of solitary confinement, the severity
of the charges levied against them, interrogations, and offers of lighter
sentences. The government imprisoned the wife of one defendant for three
months to bring maximum pressure to bear on him."
Speaking at a June 23 televised roundtable discussion, Castro said the five
Cubans who had been convicted should be considered "political prisoners,
prisoners of the empire." Noting that Washington never admits holding
political prisoners, Castro added that the U.S. rulers "never consider
Puerto Rican independentistas as political prisoners, those who have only
committed the crime of loving their homeland, their nation, their culture,
and aspiring to control their own destiny, for which they have fought many
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