Posts Tagged ‘Miami’

Gerardo Hernández: guilty as charged? Alan Gross: innocent as claimed?

May 30, 2014


by Stephen Kimber

It should be easier to make a deal. A 65-year-old American USAID subcontractor named Alan Gross is serving 15 years in a Cuban prison for smuggling sophisticated telecommunications equipment into Cuba. Cuban officials say they’re prepared to discuss his fate without pre-conditions as a “humanitarian” gesture. But it is also clear they want to exchange him for the three members of their Cuban Five intelligence network still in prison in the United States.

There are precedents for such a swap.

In 2010, Washington acted quickly to trade 10 Russian deep-cover spies for four men the Russian government had imprisoned for “illegal contacts” with the West. There is also the example of Israel. In 2011, Israel freed more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to win the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas five years earlier.

And yet — even after a November 2013 letter signed by a bipartisan group of 66 Senators urging President Obama to “act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Gross’s] release,” — the U.S. Administration refuses to negotiate.

Why? Three words: Castro, Cuba, murder.

Even for those who can get past the first two, the third is often, understandably, a show-stopper.

In 2001, Gerardo Hernández, the leader of the Cuban Five, was charged and convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder” in connection with a 1996 shootdown of two civilian aircraft over the Florida Straits that resulted in the deaths of four men. He was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years in prison.

How can the United States exchange a man convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for someone the State Department continues to insist did nothing wrong?

It’s worth unpacking both sides of that conventional wisdom.

Let’s start with the case of Gerardo Hernández.

The shootdown

On February 24, 1996, Cuban Air Force MiGs shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing the four civilians aboard.

The shootdown triggered not only an international incident between the two countries but also an outpouring of rage and demands for revenge from Miami’s Cuban-American exile community.

We can argue today whether the planes were in Cuban or international airspace when they were shot down. Or debate whether the shootdown was a reasonable response to Brothers’ provocation.

But none of those legitimate debates has anything to do with the central issue: What role, if any, did Gerardo Hernández play in the shootdown of the planes? Could he have known in advance the Cuban military was planning to shoot down the aircraft? Would he have had any control over, influence on, or role in the Cuban military’s plan to bring down the planes?

Hernández and the shoot down

During much of the time leading up to the shootdown (from October 1995 to January 26, 1996), Gerardo Hernández was on vacation in Cuba. Another agent, identified in trial documents as Manny Ruiz, took his place and remained in Miami until at least mid-March 1996. Ruiz, a major and Hernández’s superior in the Cuban intelligence command structure, controlled the decoding program required to communicate directly with their bosses in Havana until after March 14, 1996 — 17 days after the shootdown.

On January 29, 1996, Havana sent a high frequency message to Ruiz: “Superior headquarters,” it said, “approved Operation Scorpion in order to perfect the confrontation of counter-revolutionary actions of Brothers to the Rescue.” The message said Havana needed to know “without a doubt” when Brothers leader José Basulto was flying and “whether or not activity of dropping of leaflets or violation of air space.”

Although prosecutors would later claim these documents showed Hernández played a role in Operation Scorpion — the basis of the conspiracy to commit murder charge — the documents clearly show this message was addressed to Ruiz, not Hernández.

Two weeks later, on February 12, a second message concerning Operation Scorpion was sent to field agent René González and signed using the code names for both Ruiz and Hernández. Hernández says he “did not write or send the message of February 12.”

There are a number of reasons to believe him. For starters, the message adopts almost precisely the same wording as the January 29 message, including repeating two errors Ruiz might not have caught but Hernández surely would.

The message cryptically instructed González to “find excuse not to fly” on future Brothers missions. The reality was that González had stopped flying with Brothers more than two years earlier. Hernández would have known that.

The message also referred to González as Iselin, one of his two code names, but one which Hernández did not use in any of his other messages to him.

And what did “perfect the confrontation” mean? Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch — in her 2008 dissent from a decision of the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals — pointed out: “There are many ways a country could ‘confront’ foreign aircraft. Forced landings, warning shots, and forced escorted journeys out of a country’s territorial airspace are among them — as are shoot downs.”

Would Cuban State Security have told Hernández in advance it planned to shoot down the planes? That’s highly unlikely. Cuban intelligence is incredibly compartmentalized; information is shared on a need-to-know basis only. Hernández, a mid-level field intelligence agent, would have had no need to know.

During this time, Hernández did have other important mission responsibilities. He was in charge of Operation Venecia, an unrelated plan to help another agent inside Brothers, Juan Pablo Roque, to re-defect back to Cuba. Operation Venecia was successful — Roque flew out of Miami on February 23, 1996.

On March 1, the Cuban Intelligence Directorate sent a message of congratulation to its agents in Miami: “Everything turned out well,” it said. “The commander in chief visited [Roque] twice, being able to exchange the details of the operation. We have dealt the Miami right a hard blow, in which your role has been decisive.”

The message did not refer to either Operation Scorpion or Operation Venecia. Instead it offered “our profound recognition” for Operation German. Based on the context of the message and the fact that Roque’s code name was “German,” it seems clear this message refers to Roque’s defection. During the trial, however, prosecutors argued the message congratulated Hernández for his role in the shootdown.

Prosecutors also claimed Hernández’s promotion to Captain in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior on June 6, 1996, represented another acknowledgment of his key role in the shootdown. But June 6 is the anniversary of the founding of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, the date on which routine long-service promotions are granted to qualifying MININT employees. Having completed four years as lieutenant, Hernández had automatically been promoted.

As Judge Kravitch concluded in her appeal dissent, prosecutors “presented no evidence” to link Hernández to the shootdown. “I cannot say that a reasonable jury — given all the evidence — could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernández agreed to a shoot down.”

The charge

Which brings us to the issue of why prosecutors decided to charge Hernández with conspiracy to commit murder. It was not one of the original charges laid after the Cuban agents were arrested on September 12, 1998. Prosecutors only added it seven months later, on May 7, 1999.

Why the delay?

FBI agents had penetrated the Cuban network as early as December of 1996, and decrypted and translated the relevant messages well before the arrests.

There are several possible explanations for the decision to escalate the case by tacking on the murder charge.

Although prosecutors in 1998 boasted the FBI broke a “very sophisticated” spy ring, journalists and commentators quickly focused on just how unsophisticated the operation seemed. Critics had begun to dismiss the case as “second-rate.” That changed, of course, as soon as the murder charge was added.
The FBI was under fire from exile leaders in Miami for failing to charge anyone in connection with the shootdown. Soon after the 1998 arrests, Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart called on the Clinton administration to charge the arrested agents “for the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue” — even though no evidence then connected them to the incident.

The trial

The conspiracy to commit murder charge became the central focus of the seven-month trial.

Did the prosecution present a compelling case?

Theydidn’t believe so. At the conclusion of the trial, they filed a last-minute emergency petition to prevent the jurors from voting on the murder count. During her instructions to the jury, Judge Joan Lenard had outlined the level of proof required to convict Hernández of conspiracy to murder. In a petition to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal on May 25, 2001, the prosecutors threw up their hands. “In light of the evidence presented in this trial,” the petition declared, the judge’s instruction “presents an insurmountable hurdle for the United States in this case, and will likely result in the failure of the prosecution.”

The Appeal Court rejected their petition, but the jury convicted the Five on every single count, including conspiracy to murder.

The jury

Which brings us to the jury, and the political climate in Miami at the time of the trial.

There is a traditional hostility among Miami’s exile community to anyone associated with the Castro government. But the climate was even more toxic in the lead-up to the trial:

Elian González, a Cuban boy, had washed up on Florida’s shores in November 1999. After an emotional and legal tug of war between his father in Cuba and his extended family in Miami, he was returned to his family in Cuba, ratcheting up the anger toward Cuba among many in Miami.
Although much of the Miami media would have been reflexively anti-Cuban in the best of circumstances, we now know some virulently anti-Cuban journalists and commentators, including some who wrote about the case before and during the trial, were secretly paid thousands of dollars by the U.S. Government through the Board of Broadcast Governors.
There was still anger and frustration among many in Miami because no one had been charged for the shootdown of the planes two years before, with some officials suggesting indicting Fidel Castro; Gerardo Hernández, it is fair to suggest, became the best available substitute.

Before and during the trial, the defence applied for a change of venue because of the climate of hostility in Miami. Those requests were all turned down.

In the years since their convictions, however, a number of respected international organizations have raised questions about whether the accused got a fair trial.

Amnesty International, in a 2010 report concluded: “A central, underlying concern relates to the fairness of holding the trial in Miami, given the pervasive community hostility toward the Cuban government in the area and media and other events which took place before and during the trial. There is evidence to suggest that these factors made it impossible to ensure a wholly impartial jury.”

Added the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in a 2005 report: “The climate of bias and prejudice against the accused in Miami persisted and helped to present the accused as guilty from the beginning. ”

Amnesty International also questioned “the strength of the evidence on which Gerardo Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to murder… [Amnesty] believes that there are questions as to whether the government discharged its burden of proof that Hernández planned a shoot-down of BTTR planes in international airspace, and thus within US jurisdiction, which was a necessary element of the charge against him.”

To repeat, once again, the opinion of Judge Kravitch, prosecutors “presented no evidence” to link Hernández to the shootdown. “I cannot say that a reasonable jury — given all the evidence — could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernández agreed to a shoot down.”

The case of Alan Gross

If it’s obvious the case against Gerardo Hernández is not as clear cut as the State Department would have us believe, neither is the case for Alan Gross.

On December 3, 2009, Cuban authorities arrested Gross and later charged him with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.” He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Although the State Department continues to describe him as a humanitarian do-gooder attempting to help Cuba’s small Jewish community connect to the Internet, the facts are more complex.

Cuba’s 1,500-member Jewish community has generally good relations with the island’s government. And they already had Internet connections. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a global Jewish news service, would report later: “the main Jewish groups in Cuba denied having any contracts with Alan Gross or any knowledge of his project.”

In 2008, Gross had signed a one-year deal with Development Associates International, a USAID-connected firm, to import communications equipment into Cuba, set up three WiFi hot spots — one each in Havana, Camaguey and Santiago — and train Cubans to use them. He was paid $258,264.

That equipment included BGANS (Broadband Global Network Systems, which function as a satellite phone bypassing the local phone system and can also provide Internet signals and be used to establish its own WiFi hotspot, allowing it to operate undetected by government servers) and at least one specialized sophisticated SIM card, capable of preventing satellite phone transmissions from being detected within 400 kilometres. Such SIM cards are not available for general sale in the U.S. and are most frequently used by the CIA and the Defense Department.Despite U.S. travel restrictions, Gross made five visits to Cuba in 2009 alone. He never informed Cuba of his mission, and invariably flew into the country on a tourist visa. To smuggle his equipment into the country without arousing suspicion, Gross sometimes used unsuspecting members of religious groups as “mules.”

In December 2009, Gross had been scheduled to deliver a BGANS device to a Havana university professor who’d been using a similar U.S.-supplied device to send information on “the Cuban situation” to his handlers in the United States. He was actually a double agent working for Cuban State Security. Gross was arrested.

When Cuban authorities arrested Gross, they uncovered a treasure trove of reports back to his bosses in Washington in which he acknowledged the dangerous nature of the work he was doing. “This is very risky business in no uncertain terms,” he wrote at one point, adding that “detection of satellite signals would be catastrophic.”


So if Alan Gross is not quite as innocent as claimed, and Gerardo Hernández is not as guilty as judged, where does that leave us?

The truth is that — whatever their violations of the laws of the countries in which the two men were arrested — both Alan Gross and Gerardo Hernández are two more human victims of more than 50 years of failed American policy toward Cuba.

Their continued incarcerations represent — for both sides — a major impediment to improving relations between the two countries.

The Cuban government has expressed a willingness to discuss Alan Gross’s fate without pre-conditions. It is past time for the United States, which is ultimately responsible for Alan Gross’s failed mission in Cuba, to do the same.,

How Much Longer? Obama and the Cuban Five !

May 15, 2014




The arrest in Cuba of four Miami residents who came with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts here that were planned there — where they received training, resources and where their bosses are — brings to light once again the absolute injustice committed against our Five compatriots. They were conducting a difficult and risky mission precisely to try to prevent similar crimes.

The heroic task of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René was perfectly legitimate. It was based on what is known as “state of necessity” or otherwise known as “necessity defense.” In certain circumstances, to save lives that are in danger a person can commit lesser violations (forcing entry into a home without asking permission and causing material damage in order to rescue someone from a fire, is an easy example to understand).

In this case, to save other lives, they put their own lives in danger, and not just in one heroic act — as in the example of the house on fire — but rather in many heroic acts in the years that they worked inside the worst terrorist groups, in order to discover their plans. They never used arms nor used force or violence. In their daily lives they obeyed the law and their social duties. They were models of civility as their neighbors and co-workers testified in their trial.

Our compatriots technically committed only one fault: they didn’t reveal to authorities the nature of their mission in Miami. That violation of not having registered as a foreign agent is quite common in the United States and it is normally resolved with payment of a fine.

In the case of the Cuban Five that omission is also completely justified. In fact, it was essential. Why would someone struggle against Miami terrorism and at the same time notify the very same authorities who have helped and supported the terrorists for 50 years?

The very trial they were subjected to proves that point to the hilt. From the initial indictments to the sessions where their excessive sentences were imposed and throughout the trial, the prosecutors never hid the fact that they were on the side of the terrorists, that they were their protectors, and to support them they placed our heroes in the docket of the accused in a bizarre subversion of justice.

The judge, for her part, had her own unforgettable moments, which exposed the true essence of what was occurring. This was especially true when she imposed their sentences, which included, at the request of the Government, the so-called “incapacitation clause”, subjecting the defendants to a special regimen — after they were to complete their exaggerated prison terms — that the Prosecution considered “perhaps more important” than the unjust imprisonment.

It had to do with preventing that never again any of the Cuban Five could attempt anything against the terrorists.

Since René and Antonio were U.S. citizens by birth and could not be expelled immediately from the country, as Fernando was recently, they added several years of “probation” with strict conditions that included this very telling one: “As a further special condition of supervised release the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, and organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.”

This outrageous order was issued in December 2001. In those days W. Bush proclaimed that “any government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes” and motivated by that idea he unleashed everywhere his “war against terrorism.” Wherever it may be, although for Bush obviously Miami is on another planet.

The judge’s clause to protect the terrorists is the very essence of the whole saga of the Five. It is enough to read the order issued by the same judge, 10 years later, when René left the prison. She wanted to force him to remain there, alone, isolated, unarmed, without the possibility of defending himself against any aggression. As if that weren’t enough the judge repeated, word for word, the prohibition given 10 years before. The warning was very clear: They were not going protect René from the terrorists, but rather protect them from René.

Today, like yesterday, the United States government clearly recognizes that they know who the terrorists are in Miami. They also know where they are and what places they frequent. But it also shows, shamefully, that the “Bush doctrine” doesn’t apply to them, and instead of capturing and sending them to jail, it dedicates its efforts to protect them.

That’s why it surprised no one when in 2005 Luis Posada Carriles — wanted for 20 years by Interpol, fugitive from Venezuelan justice who was being tried for the destruction of a civilian airliner in mid-flight in 1976 —decided to install himself in Miami and continue promoting terrorism against Cuba, and no longer while underground, but out in the open.

It was also no surprise that four members of Posada’s terrorist network have come to Cuba several times to prepare new attacks and are now in prison here. They are individuals with a criminal record in Miami, and have even boasted publicly about their criminal intentions.

The impunity with which these criminal groups continue to operate is a direct consequence of the process pursued against our Five comrades. What happened more than 15 years ago was a clear message still in effect: in Miami not only is terrorism against Cuba permitted, but also benefits with the complicity and protection of the authorities.

The conversion of southern Florida to a sanctuary for terrorism can also be a dangerous game for the people of the United States. While the Cuban Five were imprisoned and the infamous trial was conducted against them, the majority of the terrorists who carried out the atrocity on Sept. 11, 2001 were training right there in Miami. None of them raised suspicions; none of them drew the interest of the FBI. Because in Miami, the FBI has no time for those things since they dedicate their all to protect the anti-Cuban terrorism and to punish those who try to prevent their crimes.

Barack Obama is approaching the mid-term of his second and last period as President. When he entered the White House in 2009 he received an immoral and hypocritical conduct he is not responsible for. But he will be if he does nothing to change it.

In his hands is the power to do something so he is remembered as someone different from his predecessor. The first thing would be to grant immediate and unconditional freedom to Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. He can do it and he knows it. He also knows that if he doesn’t do it, history will not forgive him.

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada has served as Cuba’s UN ambassador, Foreign Minister and president of the National Assembly.

Speech of Martin Garbus in London march 2014

May 2, 2014

gerardo-martin_orig (Gerardo and Martin)

Martin Garbus is an estimated Us-lawyer involved in the CubanFive-case

This is my oportunity, and obligation, on behalf of each member of The Cuban Five, to present to the Commission of Inquiry and the three eminent jurists a brief outline of the legal facts and the history of the case. I will, in my short talk, refer to a good deal of printed information, hundreds of pages of Transcripts and evidence that I have prepared especially for them.

The Cuban Five Trial was a 7 month trial. There is a 16 year history of litigation. We have tried to consolidate the facts and law and to answer all of their questions.

We will furnish the Commission of Inquiry and the eminent jurists together with the outline documents that are presently before the Florida court on the Habeas Corpus as well as a lengthy and a close examination of everthing that happened at the trial, before the trials, and during the appeals. All those documents fill a room of this size.

I have asked two of my colleagues to join in this presentation. Philip Horowitz, who will be joining me is a distinguished member of the criminal Bar in Florida. He was involved with Rene at the very outset of the case. Many of the things that Rene was unable to answer yesterday, because he cannot be here, will be answered by Philip or me.

Peter Schey, a distinguished member of the California Bar, will focus on the satellite issues – where was the plane when it was shot down, as well as the government’s refusual to give the defendants documents essential for their defense.

Elizabeth Woodcraft and Sara Chandler, both of whom played a large role in the creation of this Commission for which we are grateful, asked us to advise the Commissioners of these specific acts that underly our claim that the conviction and the arrest are unwarranted and unjustified. That we shall do.

We shall in the next four hours go through the facts prior to the shootdown, after the shootdown of February 1996, the period of time – two years – between the shootdown and coming arrests (it was three and a half years before charges concerning any charges related to the shootdown were filed), the pre-trial proceedings, the inability of the defense to examine material and the use by the Government of the Classified Information Procedures Act to stop the defentants from getting information.

Eminent jurists and members of the audience, the trial itself, the extraordinary events during the trial, the composition of the Jury, and the judges ruling will be also discussed orally and in the submitted papers too, as well as the appeals that went on for 8 years and the the post-apeal period that went on for 2 years.

This case is unparelleled in American legal history, with respect to the violations of fair trial issues, the manner of arrest and the venue issues, most specifically the way that the Jury was affected by the payment by the American Government of millions of dollars to journalists who covered the case.

Facts laboriously developed after the Supreme Court declined review, thousands of hours of investigative time showed conclusively the United State government’s spending money to get journalists to write stories to wrongly influence the jury and their success in achieving their goal of an unlawful conviction.

There were 1930 days from arrest to conviction of The Cuban Five, 1930 days of radio and television stories in the local newspapers. Over that period of time there were an avarage of 6 print stories a day paid for by the United States Government. They were in addition to these stories and articles on a daily, repetitive basis in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television, on NBC, CBS Radio TV Marti and other outlets.

Potential and sitting juries were innundated with government paid-for propaganda.
Long after the end of the trial, in September 2006, we found out for the first time the extent of the wrongful payments. This issue now sits, for the first time, before a Florida court as we try and overturn the convictions.

We will also discuss with you the facts concerning each of the Cuban Five’s innocence and particularly Gerardo’s innocence. Gerardo has absolutely nothing to do with the shootdown, nothing to do with any “conspiracy to murder”. The facts in this case substantiate his total claim of innocence.

Gerardo submitted in court his affidavit that said: “Prior to the events of February 1996 and up to present time I knew and know nothing about any of alleged plans of shooting the aircraft of the Brothers to the Rescue. None of the actions that I did take in advance of February the 4th were attended to be any part of any of such plan, nor was I aware that any of my actions contributed to any such plan, if it existed.”

He said in his affidavit: “ As I knew nothing of the alleged plan of the shootdown of the aircraft, still I could not contribute or have any knowledge of such plan that would cause any aircraft that would be shut down in international airspace or in territory of the maritime jurisdiction of the United States.”

That affidavit, uncontradicted, has been given to the eminent jurists who are presiding over this Commission of Inquiry.

This case was tried in a perfect storm of politics. The Cold War was still being fought in the Florida straits in 1966, 1967, 1978, and still in 1998, 1999 and 2000 when this case was tried. Miami, at that time, had 700 000 Cuban Americans, who were living with the issues of “Cuba” and “terrorism”.

There are four different factors to consider when looking at the wrongful and prejudicial issues bombarding the jury.

First, the allegations of Cuban terrorism, and the allegations that America was performing terrorism with respect to the Cuban state was part of the daily story in newspapers, radio and television in Miami. Its impact on the jury is set forth in the papers I have submitted.

Secondly, was the politics of the 2000 elections. Bush against Gore, the presidential election was decided for the country by the Miami Cubans. Both the Republicans and the Democrats very much wanted the Cuban vote. That is why Gerardo was charged, three and a half years after the event, with a conspiracy charge. The Government had all the facts on the date of the shoot down and for three and a half years no one was charged. It was an attempt by the Democratic President and Attorney General to court the Cuban voters. The prosecution was finished by the Bush Administration. Payback for the vote.

Thirdly, the Elian Gonzalez case, returning the young boy to his father in Cuba, caused fury in much of the Cuban-American population of Miami. That case became the daily focus of the media resulting in an increase in the impact of prejudicial material for potential jurors against Cuba and anyone associated with Cuba.

Fourthly, the Brothers to the Rescue attempted to interfere on a daily basis with the jury trial and succeeded. What you will see, and what the Commissioners will read about, in the very lengthy documents that we have provided them, is that all of these things were the daily focus of the press; at the extraordinary rate of 6 columns a day for 1932 days. Radio, tv and newspaper columns written by people who often had long histories of anti-Cuban activities, who were paid by the American government.

The American law prohibits the paying of journalists to influence a Jury. And in this specific case you had specific findings by the Judge about the difficulties in finding an impartial jury, the failure to get an impartial jury and even these judges did not know of the millions of dollars paid to the journalists or the many millions of dollars paid each year to RadioTelevision Marti to help them influence juries.

Following the traditional concept of the American law, the Judge said that the government could not make statements outside of court, as the defendants could not make statements outside of court.

Nonetheless, we have learned, since 2006, that this has been done on a regular basis by the Government for 1930 days.

Many of the articles are exactly like the other articles. They repeated, repeated and repeated the same false factors and accusations. Also in addition to the written articles, three or four times a night there were newscasts done by the very same people paid by the United States, who were reporting the events.

To say that this is one of the worst trials in American history is not an exaggeration!

The documents I have given to the Commission are in part prepared by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, in part prepared by Peter Schey and in part by Gerardo’s defense. They go through every very specific detail of each one of the allegations against these defendants.

You must read the words of the Circuit Court in these case. The Circuit Court said the motion for the change of venue should have been granted, because it was impossible go get a fair trial in Miami at that time. Since then – that decision was in 2005 – we have learned all these additional allegations of governement misconduct which directly tied to that.

This is what the Circuit Court said in 2005, having only a fraction of the information we now have concerning the influence on the Jury.

The Court said: “despite the District Court’s numerous efforts to ensure a partial jury in this case, we find that an impartial jury in this community was an unreasonable probability because of a prejudicial community … The entire community is sensitive to the concerns of the Cuban exile population in Miami. Waves of public passion, evidenced by the public opinion polls and newspaper articles regard a change of venue.”

The documents that we have submitted to the Commission show the power and influence of the Brothers to the Rescue and how they were able to violate orders of the Clinton Administration and the Judge to help get a fair trial.

For example, The Brothers to The Rescue were not permitted to make any public statements about the trial as the trial was going on. But they did. Ignoring the Judge, they circulated petitions throughout Miami.These petitions were asking for the indictment of Fidel Castro and others in the Cuban government. These petitions were re-fighting the Cold War and making reference to Hitler, Lenin etc, making claims that the defendants in this case, the Cuban Five, were trying to get intelligence to soften Southern Florida so that it would be invaded by the Cuban Government.

Such claims, which the Judge ordered not to be repeated outside of court, were, we now know, constantly repeated outside of court, not only in papers and petitions in supermarkets, but also on radio and television. We have only learned this since the conviction. We have only learned this since the Supreme Court denied a review on this case.

Leonard Weinglass and I have litigated many motions for change of venue and it is rare that motions like that are granted. It’s a very difficult motion to win , but it was granted in our case.

But then the governement appealed and asked the decision to be reversed. A motion to change the venue that is reversed is extremely rare. It was in this case.

The Court in granting the motion for change of venue said that: “Moreover, the Elian Gonzalez matter, which was ongoing during the time of the change of venue motions, concerned the relationships between the United States and Cuba and raised the community’s awareness of the concerns of the Cuban exile community . It is uncontested that the publicity about Elian Gonzalez during the trial aroused passion within the Miami community. Despite the District Court aim to protect the Jury, the community’s awareness of this case and the one of Elian Gonzalez, made the trial of the case impossible. In this instance there were no reasonable means of ensuring a fair trial.”

One of the things that the judges tried to do, was to keep secret the names of the jurors so that they would not be intimidated, prejudiced,wrongfully influenced. Those attempts failed. One of the reasons it failed is because the journalists paid by the government, who were working on the television networks, followed the jurors outside to their cars, they had their licences plates shown on television and followed them to their work. So within a relatively short period of time, the public knew who the jurors were and these jurors knew that their lives, their jobs, their futures, their children’s lives, were at stake. They believed they had no alternative other then to convict these defendants in trial.

In another case that the governement was involved in at the same time, they sought to move a case outside of Miami, because they believed they could be prejudicial of the persuasive influence with respect to the Cuban community. In that case the governement argued: we had to move the trial outside of Miami because there were such deep feelings on issues Cuban. The case was moved outside Miami.

The government in the case of the Cuban Five made a contradictory decision that the Cuban Five case in fact should stay in Miami.

The sentencing in this case was outrageous. I have submitted documents to the Commission concerning the sentencing.

The injustice of the sentencing is a very important issue. If you would compare this case to any other case in the United States with respect to the sentences that were given than you would realize soon that these were exagerated. These sentences were only partionally and insignificantly reduced. At the present time Gerardo is serving two life sentences. His co- defendants are serving 30 years and 22 years.

In any other situation – even if there were a conviction – you are talking about two to five years at the most.

The sentencing, the composition of the Jury, the delayed charging and arresting of these people, are all unparalelled and unique, and given the politics of the time, not surprising.

This case was a travesty of justice.
Matin Garbus

Now for the prompt return of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio

March 23, 2014

_5-in-washington (1)

by Andrés Gómez, director, Areítodigital

Miami – I was in Havana when one month ago, February 28, our brother Fernando González Llort returned to the homeland the day after completing his sentence. How happy and proud I felt that day watching him on national television, content, firm and healthy, as he came down the stairs of the little plane that brought him from hell. What a relief.

There was happiness, pride and relief shared by his family, especially his compañera Rosa Aurora, and his mother, Magali; by his comrade in arms, René, free in Cuba, and by his other comrades Gerardo, Ramón y Antonio, still in United States prisons. Happiness, pride and relief shared also by the immense majority of a grateful Cuban people, its revolutionary leadership and by thousands of activists in every corner of the planet who for years have been struggling for the freedom of the Cuban Five.

Fernando was originally sentenced in December 2001 in Miami — city where the U.S. government decided to conduct its infamous trial against the Five — to 19 years for three minor charges: general conspiracy, the use of false identity and conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent. For those three charges Judge Joan Lenard, pressured by the federal government, maliciously imposed that excessive sentence. Three minor charges, while the major media in Miami, the United States and most of the world labeled him as a “spy.”

It was a sentence that a panel of three judges in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals annulled in the summer of 2008 for being excessive, and ordered Judge Lenard to re-sentence him to a lesser sentence. This also occurred with the sentences of Ramón and Antonio.

In December 2009, Miami, the same judge in a display of malice and cynicism, lowered his original sentence of 19 years by only one year and three months, to 17 years and 9 months in prison. Fernando completed that sentence on February 27, when he was freed after serving 15 years, five months and 15 days in prison. According to the regulations of the U.S. federal prison system, the prisoners receive a 13% reduction of their sentences for good conduct, as was the case for Fernando and René.

Well, what a relief to see him home, safe and sound, the same as it was for René. It was so good to see him strong and firm and obviously mindful of having fully completed his duty to his people. Fernando expressed himself carefully but with confidence and clarity. I see him as a man with an instinctive need to be precise in his ideas and thoughts when talking, communicating. He has shown himself to be a gentleman, polite and appreciative.

Grateful to everyone in Cuba and elsewhere who for all these long years have struggled not only for the Five’s freedom, but also against the policy of State terrorism that the United States government has maintained against the Cuban people for more than 55 years, to try to force it to surrender its independence and freedom. It is a policy that has required the Cuban government for that same period, to have agents infiltrated in the organizations tasked by the United States to carry out that perverse and criminal policy, according to the declassified documents of U.S. intelligence agencies.

In part of Fernando’s allocution before the judge who arbitrarily sentenced him in December 2001, he said:

“President Bush, in his speech to the Joint Session of Congress on September 20, 2001, declared: ‘Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.’ […]

“Your Honor:

“My country and my people were forced to awaken to danger and called to defend freedom over 40 years ago. I feel proud to have been one of those who forewarned my people of such dangers.

“Later that night, in that same speech, President Bush stated:

“‘We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, to know the plans of terrorists before they act and to find them before they strike.’

“Cuba, which has suffered terrorist attacks for 42 years, also has the right to defend itself in this way.”

Fernando and René are home now. Now it is up to them and all of us to continue to struggle for the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio as soon as possible, as well as continuing the other part of that same struggle: against the perfidious policy of State terrorism by the United States against the Cuban people, which has caused so much damage and hardship.


%d bloggers like this: