The case of the Cuban Five: 13 years of injustice

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By Christopher Banks
September 26, 2011

In prison for opposing terrorists

The Cuban Five: Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero

Sept. 12 marked the 13-year anniversary of Washington’s unjust imprisonment of the men known throughout the world as the Cuban Five political prisoners.

The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 while working to uncover information about anti-Cuba terrorists who operate from within the United States and whose targets are innocent civilians in Cuba.

For the last half-a-century, Miami has been a sanctuary for terrorism directed against Cuba. The Cuban government has documented over 800 terrorist attacks inside Cuba since 1960, and hundreds more targeting officials and operations outside the country. The Miami-based groups involved in carrying out this terrorist war—meant to destabilize Cuba—enjoy the complicit tolerance and at times active support of the U.S. government.

In 1997, one year before the arrest of the Cuban Five, the very terrorists the Five were tasked with monitoring carried out a campaign of bombings in Havana that targeted civilians in hotels and restaurants. During one of the attacks (Sept. 4, 1997) three bombs exploded within a few minutes of each other at three different hotels. One of them killed a 32-year-old Italian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo. (Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind of the terror campaign continues to live in Miami with his terrorist friends.)

Approximately one year after the repulsive bombing campaign, the U.S. authorities arrested and captured, not the individuals and terrorist groups responsible for the attacks—whose location and activities were known—but the Cuban Five, whose peaceful efforts were meant to expose and prevent the attacks.

The 13-year-long persecution of the Cuban Five since then is proof that Washington is not only protecting and supporting anti-Cuba terrorism, but that it sees the Miami-based terrorist network as a potentially useful instrument to unleash against Cuba in the future.

René González released soon, but still not allowed to go home

On Oct. 7, René González will be the first of the Cuban Five to leave prison after completing 13 years of his unjust incarceration. Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino will remain imprisoned serving out harsh sentences ranging from 18 years to two life terms.

René González, who is subject to three additional years of probation, had asked the court to transfer supervision of his probation to the Cuban government so he could return home and reunite with his wife, Olga, and his two daughters, Ivette and Irma. But in a cruel decision, federal district court judge Joan Lenard denied his request, and ordered that René be forced to live in Miami for the next three years under “supervised release.”

During his 13-year incarceration, as an additional punishment, René was only allowed to see his wife once. Mrs. González was otherwise permanently barred by the State Department from visiting the United States. Judge Lenard’s decision essentially adds on three extra years of punishment for René and his family, who will continue to be separated.

In a cynical twist, the court-imposed terms of René’s supervised release state that he is prohibited “from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.”

In other words, the U.S. government, in its own federal court instructions, acknowledges the existence in Miami of “terrorists” and “organizations advocating violence.” (It omits who the terrorists advocate violence against!) It also admits that it knows the places where these people “are known to be and frequent.” However, instead of arresting these “individuals or groups” and putting them on trial, U.S. authorities’ only concern is that René not be allowed to interrupt their activities! The true relationship between Washington and the Miami terrorists could not be spelled out any more clearly.

New appeals, new evidence: The U.S. government’s fake ‘journalists’

Attorneys for the other Cuban Five defendants are in the process of filing a new round of appeals. A focus of the appeals is the recent discovery that the U.S. government—which bitterly fought to keep the original trial in Miami—was in fact paying Miami journalists before and during the trial to engage in a propaganda campaign against the Five.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five organized a press conference on Sept. 12, the exact anniversary of the arrest of the Five. Attorneys for the Five spoke at the press conference and discussed the new appeals.

Richard Klugh, co-counsel for Gerardo Hernandez, said the undisclosed payment to nominally independent journalists by the U.S. government represented a “unique situation in American criminal history.”

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, a propaganda arm of the U.S. government based in Miami, Fla., is budgeted $34-37 million every year to broadcast misinformation into Cuba designed by law to destabilize the government. Bill Norris, defense attorney for Ramón Labañino, described how part of that money was being paid to Miami “journalists” who then flooded Miami with negative stories about the Cuban Five, creating an atmosphere of hatred against them, in effect convicting them outside of the courtroom.

During a Sept. 12 day of solidarity for the Cuban Five held in Havana, Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba, said Washington ought to answer for “the full dimension of [its] conspiracy with local media in Miami. …”

While the U.S. government conspired with Miami media during the trial to convict the Five, outside of Miami the rest of the corporate media continue to impose a near total silence on the case. “Breaking this wall of silence is of the utmost importance,” Alarcón says. “We will attempt to do so by every means possible. Let song, poetry and love puncture that wall.”

Free the Cuban Five!

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