Miami Five’s defense exposes errors and jury intimidation during trial

Granma International
21st August 2007

On August 20, the 11th Circuit Appeals Court in Atlanta heard convincing allegations by the legal team defending the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters imprisoned in the United States.

The defense lawyers submitted that the prosecution committed serious procedural errors and used intimidation to pressure the jury of the initial trial, which took place in Miami in a climate of apparent hostility toward the five heroes.

For the first time eminent foreign legal professionals were present at the hearing of the case of Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, Ramón Labaniño, Antonio Guerrero and René González, known as the Five in the international campaign for their release.

Alicia Jrapko, a member of the International Free the Five Committee, told the Cuban radio and TV Roundtable program over the phone that the presence of prestigious international lawyers was much larger than before and signified strong backing for the Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.

Juan Guzmán, the Chilean attorney who brought charges against the ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, was present and informed the Roundtable program (again by phone) that the U.S. government was unable to refute the defense truths, as reflected in the international media.

Guzmán appreciated the questions put by the sitting judges and stated that there is really no evidence to justify the charges of espionage against the prisoners, nor that of “conspiring to commit murder,” brazenly brought against two of them.

It was also abundantly clear that Miami was not an appropriate venue for the original trial, where the Five were handed down sentences ranging from 15 years’ imprisonment to two life terms, because the jury was intimidated, a point firmly established by the defense appeal, Guzmán added.

The Chilean legal professional thought that the defense achieved its main objective: to communicate the poor conduct of the U.S. government and the shortcomings of the jury selected for the Miami trial.

“In line with my legal experience, my impression was that those who have knowledge of this case would have to rule in favor of the five Cubans,” Guzmán affirmed.

The multinational TV networks Telesur and CNN covered aspects of the hearing and antecedents in the case of the Five.

This September the Cuban patriots will have completed nine years of arbitrary detention in the United States after they were sentenced for crimes that they did not commit in a rigged trial in Miami, lacking in procedural guarantees, as confirmed by UN experts and three judges at the Court of Appeals in the first hearing.