Free 'em now

Meeting calls on President Obama to release the Cuban Five

The Christchurch Cuba Friendship Society (CCFS) has called on President Barack Obama to free the Cuban Five.

The CCFC meeting, held in the city Thursday night, welcomed President Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo torture camp and urged that he take the next logical step and abandon the facility altogether to its rightful owner the people of Cuba.

The meeting also resolved to write to Mr Obama seeking justice for the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters held in US prisons for the past 10 years.

"Much has been said on the issue of change by President Obama now is the time for action" CCFS spokesperson Paul Piesse (above) said. "Guantanamo should not simply be closed but returned to the people of Cuba along with the anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the US." Mr Piesse added.

The five, Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino and Fernando González were gathering information about terrorist groups that operate on US soil "Their actions" Mr. Piesse noted "helped prevent terrorist acts and protect innocent civilians. Their continued imprisonment is a travesty of justice"

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that the men's imprisonment is in breach of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"Mr Obama" Piesse noted "is now in a position to demonstrate his commitment to 'honesty, courage and fair play' – it's time to walk the talk."

The meeting also called on Unions, Churches and all those who seek justice to also petition the new US President for the Cuba Fives immediate release.

Letter Text

Mr Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20500,
United States of America.

Dear President Obama,

First, allow us to congratulate you on your resounding election victory, based as it was on your advocacy of change in the direction of fairness, equity of treatment for all, openness to all countries that are willing to deal fairly and honestly, and an intransigent opposition to terrorism. We share those views.

Secondly, we congratulate you on your decision to close the Guantanamo prison; it has been a blot on the international reputation of the U.S. We suggest that you could also consider returning that territory to Cuba – it is an impediment to opening better relations with the Cubans which we are sure you would agree is desirable for both countries.

Thirdly, it would be unconscionable to continue the economic blockade on Cuba. Even given the objectives of previous U.S. administrations, it has not succeeded, and it is seriously injurious to the wellbeing of ordinary Cuban citizens, which is an outcome unworthy of the U.S.

Fourthly, and most importantly from a humanitarian point of view, we ask you to lend your support to all those who actively oppose terrorism by any group against the people of any country. In this regard we bring to your attention the case of five Cubans: Rene González, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Gerardo Hernández incarcerated in the U.S. Two of these men have been denied their basic human right to visits from their wives, who have been denied visas.

These men were not engaged in any activity antagonistic to the U.S. or its interests; they were monitoring terrorists from groups that have, in the past, blown up a Cuban civilian airliner and bombed Cuban hotels. A genuine opposition to terrorism is even-handed with respect to both the victims and the perpetrators, regardless of realpolitik.

Accordingly, we ask that these men be pardoned and allowed to return to their country.

Yours sincerely

Paul Piesse
Cuba Friendship Society
New Zealand