NZ Committee to Free the Cuban Five Launched

The formation of a nation wide Free the Five Committee was announced at a rally outside the United States Embassy in Wellington at lunch time today by Gillian Magee, Secretary of the local Cuba Friendship Society.

The rally was organised to highlight the 10th anniversary of the unjust imprisonment, in the US, of five young Cuban civilians whose only crime was to gather information about terrorist groups that operate on US soil and carried out attacks in Cuba.

Gillian noted, in a brief address to the rally, that the launching of the committee saw New Zealand human rights and social justice activists joining a worldwide network of such committees campaigning to publicise the Cuban Fives case and exert pressure on the U.S. government to free them.

The hypocrisy of imprisoning five men for fighting against terrorism has been one of the primary motivations of those who have lent their names to the formation of the committee. Former MP Gerald O'Brien, one of the committee initiators said in adding his support, “My generation can remember the Sacco and Vanzetti case and its inhuman outcome which placed an indelible blot on the US judicial system and after so very many years it might have been expected that such outrages would be no longer possible, yet injustice persists and grossly so.”

Current and former parliamentarians, lawyers, academics, politicians, trade unionists and other ordinary New Zealanders have added their names to the cause. Included among the committee initiators are MP’s Jim Anderton, Sue Bradford, Dr David V Williams (Professor of Law) and Helen Kelly (President of the NZ Council of Trade Unions).

Also highlighted at the gathering was the repeatedly denied visitation rights for the Fives families - a situation described by Amnesty International as unnecessarily punitive. The committees work, Gillian noted, will not be complete until the Five are freed and returned to their families.