Struggle for release of political prisoners continues

Speaking on the nightly Round Table TV and radio program Thursday (July 31st ) Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament, stated that the campaign to free the five Cuban political prisoners held in US prisons continues with an information campaign to raise the awareness of a case.

The Five are approaching the 10th anniversary of their incarceration for their efforts to end U.S.-based terrorism directed at their Cuban homeland.

The decades-long history of terrorist attacks by right-wing Cuban-exile groups has been aimed at Cuba’s socialist infrastructure and economy and has taken more than 3,400 Cuban lives. It was this history and a rise in terrorist attacks in the 1990s, which prompted Cuba to send the five men to monitor the right-wing exiles.

Cuba had presented the material evidence gathered by the five to the FBI and demanded that appropriate action be taken. Instead, the FBI used the evidence to determine who collected it and, on Sept. 12, 1998, arrested the five—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

On July 24 this year, defence lawyers for the five presented arguments against the June 4 ruling of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which sustained the guilty verdicts.

However, the court annulled the sentences imposed on Fernando Gonzales (19 years), Ramon Labanino (life imprisonment plus 19 years) and Antonio Guerrero (life and 10 years) and returned their cases to the Federal District Court in Miami and Judge Joan Lenard for new sentencing.

The court also upheld sentences against Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez.

Alarcon said the perversion of justice is a result of either malicious incompliance or ignorance, along with fraudulent decisions by a judge, evident in all the officials that have dealt with the case of the Cuban Five since they were first arrested in the US in 1998.

With regard to the latest refusal of the US Interests Section in Havana to grant a visa to Olga Salanueva (wife of Rene Gonzalez), and Adriana Perez (wife of Gerardo Hernandez), Alarcon explained that Salanueva was notified that she is "ineligible" for having been expelled from the US, and Adriana received the same delayed reply she has received on eight other occasions.

In the case of Tony Guerrero, Alarcon noted that when he was recently visited by his sister and son, US authorities locked down the prison partway though the visit which amounts to an additional illegal punishment of the prisoner and a low blow to the family members by the authorities.

The deliberate actions of the prosecution and other US government offices were also revealed on the Round Table program, which included statements from attorney Roberto Gonzalez, brother of Rene, and Leonard Weinglass, a US defence attorney, who spoke by telephone on the latest steps of the appeals process.

Although a setback, Weinglass believes the 99-page ruling, which includes a 16-page dissenting opinion, did provide opportunities for continued legal appeals at the Circuit Court level and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court. For example, while the convictions were upheld, three of the five men will be resentenced, which means their sentences could be reduced.

Weinglass explained that the legal team had requested a new hearing, on the basis that the decisions adopted by the court on June 4 and 5 are based on erroneous information, pure fiction and not on real facts and a rigorous application of the law.

He expounded on details of the process and stated his hope that a new court ruling will take weeks instead of months.

Roberto Gonzalez said they are appealing the ruling against ratification of the charge of conspiracy to commit murder unjustly levelled against Gerardo Hernandez, on which the three appeals judges have spoken indistinctly.

Also broadcast on the program was comments by Chilean judge Juan Guzman who —after attending the last hearing and listening to the judges, prosecution and defence lawyers— concluded that the Cuban Five are innocent and believes that the US government is politically interested in condemning them.

The story of the repeatedly denied visitation rights for the families - a violation of U.S. laws and international norms of prisoners’ rights is now on film. New York media activists Sally O’Brien and Jennifer Wager’s documentary, “Against Silence in Our Own Voices: Families of the Five Speak Out” in which families of the five discuss their experiences highlights the need to step up the visa campaign to demand the U.S. allow them their visitation rights.

Mission Against Terror

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