The case of the Cuban 5

The case of the Cuban 5

Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez known as the “Cuban 5” were arrested in Miami, Florida in September of 1998 and charged with 26 counts of violating federal laws of the United States; 24 of those charges were technical and minor offenses; the other 2 were conspiracy charges. None of the charges reflected violence against the United States, use of weapons or property damage. They made no threats or injury to anyone and there was no transfer of U.S. Government documents or classified material. Nevertheless, they were sentenced originally to four life sentences and 77 years collectively in U.S. prisons.

The Cuban 5 had a mission to infiltrate and monitor the activities of anti- Cuban terrorist and criminal groups operating in Miami and report planned threats against the Cuban people and government. Over decades, close to 3,500 Cuban citizens have lost their lives due to terrorist attacks including the mid-air explosion of a bomb on Cubana Airlines October 6, 1976 that killed 73 passengers over Barbados. Master minds of this heinous crime, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, were never charged for that crime. In 1987 Bosch entered the United States where he was granted asylum and in 1990, he was pardoned by President Bush Senior. Also the United States government continues to protect Luis Posada Carriles from extradition to several countries for crimes he committed there as required by international law.

The arrest of the Cuban 5 took place shortly after the Cuban government shared information with the United States government authorities concerning terrorist actions against Cuba being planned in Miami.

Upon their arrest in 1998, the Cuban 5 spent 17 months in solitary confinement and in 2003 one month in the “hole” under isolated and terrible conditions for no stated reason.

Three retired generals and a retired admiral of the United States army testified at their trial that the Cuban 5 were not a threat to the United States National Security.

On May 27, 2005, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions found the detention of the Cuban 5 to be in “contravention of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, and requested that the United States Government adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation, in conformity with the principles stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In August 2005, a three-judge panel of the 11th Federal Circuit unanimously overturned all the convictions of the Cuban 5 and ordered a new trial citing the impossibility for the Cuban 5 to receive a fair trial in Miami due to various violent Cuban exile groups and paramilitary camps that operate in the Miami area.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales directly intervened on the U.S. governments’ behalf to set aside the 11th Circuit three judge panel opinions.

In June 2008, the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the guilty verdict and the panel ratified the sentences of Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez. In the cases of Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, and Fernando Gonzalez, they were sent back for re-sentencing in the same court that convicted them in Miami.

Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez has been repeatedly denied an entry visa by the U.S. government to visit her husband in Victorville penitentiary.

In March 2009, 12 Amicus Briefs were presented before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Cuban 5, including from 10 Nobel Prize winners, intellectuals, members of Parliaments and organizations from all over the world. These were the most Amicus Briefs ever attached to a Supreme Court criminal case.

In June 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court announced without explanation its decision not to review the case of the Cuban 5.

In October 2009, Antonio Guerrero was resentenced to 21 years and 10 months, and on December 2009 Ramon Labañino was resentenced to 30 years while Fernando Gonzalez was resentenced to 17 years.

In June 2010, the Cuban 5’s legal team filed a Habeas Corpus before the Federal Court of Miami.

In October 2010, Amnesty International issued a report stating “Should the legal appeals process not provide a timely remedy, and given the long prison terms imposed and length of time the prisoners have already served, Amnesty International is supporting calls for a review of the case by the U.S. executive authorities through the clemency process or other appropriate means”.

In April 2011, the U.S. Government asked Federal District Court to deny Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez’s Habeas Corpus Motion.

In August 2011, the legal team of Gerardo Hernandez filed an appeal before the Miami court of Judge Joan Lenard. Among the documents submitted by Gerardo’s lawyers on this occasion are three appendices with a sworn statement by Attorney Paul McKenna, in which he admits that errors were made in Gerardo’s initial defense.

In September, 2011, Joan A. Lenard, U.S. District Judge denied Rene Gonzalez’s Motion to Modify Conditions of Supervised Release by being allowed to return to Cuba.

On October 7, 2011 Rene Gonzalez ended his 13 year sentence and until further notice has to remain in Southern Florida for 3 more years of strict supervised parole without visits from his wife Olga.

March 31, 2012, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard granted Gonzalez his request for the visit with the conditions that he had to obtain permission from the U.S. government and return within 15 days.

On April 22, 2013 Rene Gonzalez returned to Cuba for his father’s funeral and on May 11, Joan A. Lenard allowed him to stay there provided that he renounces his United States citizenship.

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