On 8th June 2001 in a federal court in Miami five Cuban men, Gerardo HernÃ¡ndez, RamÃ³n LabaÃ±ino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando GonzÃ¡lez and RenÃ© GonzÃ¡lez were convicted of charges of false identification, espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Their sentences ranged from 75 years to life.
Cuba has been the bogey man for the American people since the Castro-led revolution resulted in the ousting of US puppet Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 and the resulting expulsion of American tax exiles and gangsters. Many of the exiled settled in Florida and have since waged a largely unreported ‘private’ terrorist war on Cuba which has resulted in the deaths of over 3000 Cubans.
The five men, known as the Miami Five in Cuba and the Cuban Five in Miami were sent to infiltrate and monitor the anti-Cuban terrorist activities of such groups as Brothers to the Rescue, Comandos F4, CORU, Alpha 66 and Omega 7, based in Miami and warn of planned terrorist attacks – though it transpired that the groups activities were know, if not supported, by the FBI and CIA. As a result of the information they supplied, many terrorist act were pre-empted and two aircraft involved in these attacks were shot down.
However, the five were arrested on 12th September 1998 and held in solitary confinement for 17 months. The trial, which began in November 2000, was held in Miami and the defence lawyers argued from the outset that this could not lead to a fair trial – given the local anti-Cuban sentiment – and five times the judge denied a change of venue.
Four years after their conviction (and after seven years in prison) their convictions were overturned and they were granted a new trial outside Florida. Within two months a panel of twelve judges began deliberating thier case and a year later their retrail was denied.
They remain in prison. The wives of two men, Gerardo HernÃ¡ndez and RenÃ© GonzÃ¡les, are persistently denied visas to visit their husbands. Amnesty International challenged the fairness of the trial in an open letter to the U.S. State Department in 2006 and continue to monitor the situation. Those who have champione their cause include Eight Nobel laureates – amongst them Desmond Tutu and GÃ¼nter Grass.
Caught on camera.
The Federal Prosecutor for Southern Florida, Guy Lewis (right) steps up to hug Jose Basulto, the head of the so called ‘Brothers to the Rescue’ organisation after sentencing the hearings. Basulto, a former CIA agent and vetran of the Bay of Pigs invasion is a member of the Cuban American National Foundation. He was at the forefront of the campaign to keep Elian Gonzalez in the US and has admitted to having made attemps on the life of Fidel Castro. It was Basulto’s planes that were shot down by Cuban air force Migs in 1996 when they violated Cuban airspace despite repeated warnings not to do so. These pictures talken from US television prove the close links between the Federal prosecutor’s office and the Cuban-American Mafia. Is it possible that the Miami Five got a fair trial?
There is an international campaign to Free The Five. In the UK, Father Geoff Bottoms works tirelessly to raise awareness and frequently travels to Cuba and Miami to represent the prisoners and was awarded the Cuban Frienship Medal by Fidel Castro for his work.