The Guardian 17 August, 2005

Cuban Five win new trial

The five Cuban citizens currently serving terms ranging from 10 years and double life imprisonment in US jails for "espionage" have been granted a new trial. After taking more than a year to weigh the evidence, the federal appellate court in Atlanta, Georgia vacated the original Miami court’s ruling of December 2001 and ordered that a re-trial take place in a location other than Miami. The decision of the three judges was unanimous.

Cuban agents Gerardo Hernan­dez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez were arrested in 1998 after successfully infiltrating anti-Cuba terror groups based in Miami, Florida. However, rather than showing gratitude for the co-operation in its "war on terror", the Bush administration was happy to allow a trial marred by irregularities and held in a hysterical anti-Castro atmosphere to grind on to reach the outrageous sentences.

During the original trial, defence lawyers for the Five requested that the trial be shifted from Miami no less than five times. Miami is home to approximately 650,000 Cuban exiles — a community dominated by powerful groups of anti-communist public officials, businessmen, press and other media figures. It is also home to groups that engage in terrorism against Cuba. Orlando Bosch — the man responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner and the deaths of all 73 passengers and described by the US Justice Department as the western hemisphere’s most dangerous terrorist — walks its streets a free man. The Five were never going to get a fair trial in Miami. The persistence by authorities in holding the trials there was a clear violation of their right to a trial free of outside influences that were prejudiced against them.

After the announcement by the appellate court, defence lawyers held a telephone media conference organised by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. They expressed their relief that a chance now exists for a fair trial and satisfaction that the latest ruling is in line with what they had requested from the beginning of the process. It is also a measure of the strength of the movement inside Cuba and worldwide to see the Cuban Five set free.

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