In June 2001, a Miami jury found five Cubans guilty on charges ranging from spying to conspiracy to commit murder and endangering the security of the United States. The five men had already spent three years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. They were guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to protect their country against terrorism. Despite international protests and legal challenges, the Cuban Five remain in jail in the US.
Gerardo Hernandez was given two life sentences plus a further 15 years. Ramon Labanino was given life, as was Antonio Guerrero. Fernando Hernandez, who had infiltrated the notorious 'Brothers to the Rescue' organisation and posed as an anti-Cuban agent, was given 19 years imprisonment and Rene Gonzalez 15 years. These men had been working to foil the persistent attempts by right-wing counter-revolutionary groups in the United States to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism against Cuba. Among those they attempted to expose was Posada Carrilles, wanted for the destruction of a Cuban airliner in 1976 when over 70 people were killed. Carilles is wanted in Venezuela for this terrorist act but the US government refuses to extradite him.
During his trial Rene Gonzalez gave a defiant speech from the dock: 'The whole issue of Cuban agents has a very simple solution: Leave Cuba alone. Respect the sovereignty of the Cuban people. We have better things to do, all of them a lot more constructive than watching the criminals who freely walk the streets of Miami'. While Ramon Labanino said, 'From this forum I denounce the law enforcement agencies of the United States that have concealed and failed to take action against terrorism and terrorists. If preventing the deaths of innocent human beings and preventing a senseless invasion of Cuba are the reasons I am being sentenced today, then I welcome that sentence. This has been a political trial and therefore we are political prisoners. It is a history that will do us true justice!'
The Five have since spent months in solitary confinement, while their families are denied visas to visit them. On 9th August 2005 the 5 won a victory when the Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta unanimously overturned their convictions and ordered a retrial. The Court found that the original trial was not fair due to the prejudices of sections of the local community in Miami (the home of the violently anti-communist Miami mafia) and the hostile publicity surrounding the case. Judge Birch said that the original Miami trial was "a perfect storm of prejudice" and that a new trial was necessary.
With their sentences overturned, the Cuban Five should have been released but, months later they remained inside. The 11th Court of Appeals of Atlanta reversed the decision to order a re-trial. Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba's National Assembly, remarked that the present Judge Wilson (from Miami) must "feel very satisfied at this moment" because "he knows that he would be the last person targeted for a bomb attack in Miami." In other words he deliberately played into the hands of the counter-revolutionary mafia by keeping the five Cubans in jail.
In June 2008 the Cuban 5’s latest court appeal was rejected, although some of the sentences were rejected as being too harsh, and have been returned for re-sentencing, Amazingly, the re-sentencing will be presided over by the same judge who handed down the unjust sentences in the first place. RATB took part in worldwide protests to condemn the court decision.
link to http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Comuniques/COAppealsDemos060508.htm
As the Cuban 5 entered their eleventh year of unjust imprisonment, the right-wing terrorist Orlando Bosch was pardoned by the US. This is a man who admits bombing a Cuban passenger plane in October 1976, as well as attempting to assassinate Cuba's elected leader Fidel Castro. Luis Posada Cariles, wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for involvement in these reactionary plots, remains under US protection. So, while locking up the Cuban Five and the hundreds in the Guantanamo concentration camp, the US allows real terrorists to go free.
After years of international campaigning, led by Cuba, Rene González was released on 7 October 2011, forced to remain in the US for a further 18 months but since May 2013 has been in Cuba, finally free. Fernando González was also freed in February 2014, returning to Cuba after completing his sentence.
The cruel and unusual punishment of the Cuban 5 is part of a political war aiming to destroy the socialist Revolution in Cuba. Since 1959 Cuba has withstood invasion attempts, sabotage terrorist attacks and an economic blockade from the US which has cost the country an estimated $975bn dollars in the last 50 years. With legal avenues nearly exhausted, the international campaign for the Cuban 5 is more important than ever. Rock around the Blockade (RATB) is part of a global network of committees and solidarity groups in 152 countries calling for justice for the Cuban 5. Gerardo Hernandez refers to this international solidarity as a ‘jury of millions’.
The Cuban 5 are heroes who exposed US links to reactionary terrorist organisations intent on over-throwing the Cuban revolution. They have paid the price of exposing US terrorism. The Obama administration in the US has used the Espionage Act to charge twice as many whistleblowers than all previous governments combined. Most recently private Manning received a 35 year sentence for leaking thousands of files detailing US state terrorism. These included footage of Iraqi journalists and unarmed civilians being murdered in cold blood. Julian Assange, founder of wiki-leaks which has released thousands of cables exposing US military and diplomatic documents exposing imperialist collusion, war crimes and state terrorism, remains under threat of extradition to the US. We must defend all the political prisoners of imperialism, demand their release and use the vital information they provide to break through the war mongering media propaganda we are fed on a daily basis.
On 17 December 2014 Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero, the three remaining members of the Cuba 5 returned to Cuba following their release from US gaols. In a live broadcast Raul Castro announced,‘As Fidel promised in June 2001, when he said, “They shall return!”, Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland. The enormous joy of their families and of all our people, who have relentlessly fought for this goal, is shared by hundreds of solidarity committees and groups, governments, parliaments, organisations, institutions, and personalities, who for the last sixteen years have made tireless efforts demanding their release. We convey our deepest gratitude and commitment to all of them.’
Read our statement here