by Leslie Feinberg
Aug. 27, 2007
Reprinted from Workers World
A multinational, multilingual group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) activists in the United States—the belly of the beast—issued a call in Spanish and English for Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five in mid-January 2007.
The five political prisoners—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González—are collectively serving four life sentences and 75 years in far-flung U.S. penitentiaries. The “crime” they were convicted of is having infiltrated CIA-backed fascist commando groups in order to halt terror attacks against Cuba from U.S. soil.
The Rainbow Solidarity call demands a new trial and freedom for these political prisoners, defense of Cuban sovereignty and self-determination, and a halt to the illegal U.S. acts of war against Cuba—including the economic blockade and CIA-trained, funded and armed attacks by mercenary “contra” armies operating from this country.
This initiative was consciously issued by LGBT and other activists battling oppression based on sexuality, gender expression and sex—one of the targeted progressive movements at whom the imperialist campaign to vilify Cuba had been aimed.
This was not the first act of solidarity with Cuba by left-wing LGBT activists in the United States—not by a long shot. But the response to the Rainbow Solidarity initiative—swift and dramatic—signals a new day for LGBT support worldwide for Cuba.
Within hours and days after the call went out over the Internet, hundreds of individuals and organizations signed on to the call, posted on the www.freethefiveny.org web site (look for the rainbow).
Most exciting was how many of the signers immediately began forwarding the call to their lists.
Volunteers from around the world translated the introduction and call for Rainbow Solidarity to free the Cuban Five into simplified and traditional Chinese, Tagalog, Farsi, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Portuguese, Italian, Danish, Japanese, French and German. More translations in the works or planned include Swahili, Urdu, Indonesian, Arabic, Korean, Bengali and a streaming video in ASL (American Sign Language).
International endorsements flooded in from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, occupied Palestine, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Wales and other countries, and from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Individuals and groups from every state in the continental United States signed on as well—from southern Florida to the Pacific Northwest, Southern California to Maine.
All told, they form an extraordinary and broad arc of a united front. A frequently updated list of signers is posted at www.freethefiveny.org.
Many names on the growing list will be recognizable as well-known LGBT activists and others battling oppression based on sexuality, gender and sex, including women’s liberationists.
This roster also reveals that many of these activists are also some of the hardest-working organizers in movements here and around the world against imperialist war, neo-liberalism, neo-colonialism, national oppression, racism, police brutality, prisons and the death penalty, sweatshops and capitalist globalization.
These are also leading activists in the struggle for immigrant rights; women’s liberation, including reproductive rights; jobs; labor union, tenant and community organizing; education; health care and affordable housing; freedom for all U.S. political prisoners and for prisoner rights; liberation of oppressed nations; support for Cuba, and the revolutionary movement to overturn capitalism and build an economy based on planning to meet peoples’ needs.
Expansive political spectrum
Early signers include Teresa Gutierrez, a longtime leader in the struggle to free the Cuban Five; former political prisoner and leading prison abolitionist Angela Y. Davis; Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice; LeiLani Dowell, national coordinator of FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together); Stephen Funk, the U.S. Marine who was the first imprisoned Iraq War conscientious objector; Bev Tang, organizer for Anakbayan, the youth group of Bayan; Gerry Scoppettuolo, co-founder of GALLAN (Pride At Work, Boston); Lani Ka’ahumanu, BiNET USA; anti-imperialist activist Joo-hyun Kang; Atlanta community activist Pat Hussain; Camille Hopkins, director of NYTRO (New York Transgender Rights Organization) of Western New York; transgender activist Moonhawk River Stone; and Jesse Lokahi Heiwa, Queer People Of Color Action.
Rauda Morcos, general coordinator of Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women, signed on. The Puerto Rican Alliance of Los Angeles and its coordinator Lawrence Reyes have endorsed.
Activists Barbara Smith and Margo Okazawa-Rey signed on. The two were among the founders of the Combahee River Collective, a group of Black feminists of all sexualities who issued a historic 1977 statement against the “interlocking” system of “racial, sexual, heterosexual and class oppression.”
Former political prisoners Laura Whitehorn and Linda Evans added their names.
Louisville, Ky., filmmaker and activist Sonja de Vries, director of the documentary “Gay Cuba,” and Walter Lippmann, editor-in-chief of CubaNews, signed on. Other activists and organizations working in defense of Cuba added their weight to the call, including Cuba Education Tours, Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Fairness Campaign, Louisville, Ky.; Simon McGuinness, secretary of the Free the Miami Five Campaign, Ireland; Brigitte Oftner, coordinator of the Austrian Free the Five committee; Viktor Dedaj, webmaster of the Cuba Solidarity Project; the Cuba Edmonton Solidarity Committee in Alberta, Canada; the Swiss Cuba Association; Deutsche Kommunistische Partei Cuba Arbeitsgruppe, Germany; and No War on Cuba, Washington, D.C.
Also QueerToday.com and its founder, Mark Snyder; Gordene MacKenzie, GenderTalk Radio and director of Women’s Studies, Merrimack College, Beverly, Mass.
Organizations include the national organization Pro-Gay Philippines; Audre Lorde Project—a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit and Transgender People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area; FIERCE!—a community organization for Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Queer, and Questioning (TLGBTSQQ) youth of color in New York City; QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism); LAGAI-Queer Insurrection; Stonewall Warriors, Boston; Greek Homosexual Community, Athens, Greece; Queertoday.com, Boston, Mass.; and Queers Without Borders, Hartford, Conn.
The Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild; Stephen Whittle, professor of equalities law and the British organization Press for Change at the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, endorsed. So did Barbara Findlay, co-chair of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Issues Section, BC Branch, Canadian Bar Association, and the law office of Lenore Rae Shefman, San Francisco, Calif.
Many transgender and transsexual organizations and individuals strengthened the initiative, including Trans Action Canada; three national Italian trans groups: Coordinamento Nazionale Trans FTM, Movimento Identità Transessuale and Crisalide Azione Trans; Matt/ilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, editor “Nobody Passes,” San Francisco, Calif.; Cianán Russell, chair of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance; and the Winona Gender Mutiny Collective.
Endorsers include The National Lavender Green Caucus; Doug Barnes and the Freedom Socialist Party; Starlene Rankin, Green National Committee delegate of the Lavender Caucus of the Green Party of the United States; Orange County Peace & Freedom Party, Anaheim, Calif; and the LGBT Caucus of Workers World Party.
Among the signers are individuals and organizations whose activist work includes the struggle against women’s oppression: Brenda Stokely, a leader of the Million Worker March Movement and NYCLAW; transnational feminist theorist Chandra Talpade Mohanty; Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center; Women’s Fightback Network, Boston, Mass.; Melinda Clark, local co-founder of Code Pink in Willits, Calif.; Welfare Warriors, Milwaukee, Wis.; League of Women Voters in Montenegro; and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) chapters in Washington, D.C.; Rome, Italy; and the Canadian Section in British Columbia.
Many labor activists have added their names and/or the endorsement of their unions, including Pride at Work/GALLAN Boston, Mass., AFL-CIO; Bus Riders Union/Labor Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, Calif., and Guyanese-American Workers United, New York, N.Y. From Canada, Canadian Union Of Postal Workers, Calgary, Alberta; Canadian Union of Public Employees, Toronto, Ont.; and Hospital Employees’ Union, Burnaby, B.C.
There’s no end in sight to this rainbow.
The Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five initiative is also giving voice to individuals who, living in capitalist democracies, have little political input except to be asked to pull a lever for a big-business candidate.
The Rainbow Solidarity call has become a poll that reveals a new grassroots sentiment as signers eloquently register their outrage at the continued imprisonment of the five Cubans and at Washington’s economic and political blockade of Cuba and other illegal and covert acts of war.
Rebecca writes from San Diego, Calif., “Free the Cuban Five!! No more political prisoners!”
David from New York state stresses how biased the trial venue was for the Five: “Five Cubans who were trying to stop the ultra-right terrorist groups in Miami from carrying out violent actions against the people of Cuba. Miami is the one city in the U.S. where the Five certainly could not receive a fair trial.”
Paul says: “As a gay man in South Florida who calls for freedom for our brothers, the Five, I am delighted to see this initiative. THEY MUST BE FREE!”
Tighe supports the five as “those most important defenders of everyone’s right to live without fear of terrorism. The patriotic Cuban Five [are] illegally held political prisoners in a country with the most of its own people behind bars.” Barry, who grew up in Miami, adds the need to organize to close down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo and free all those held there.
“T.” from California, comments: “These five men, fighting against terrorism, have been imprisoned by the U.S. government—‘MY’ government! Jailing heroes and supporting terror, while pretending to do the opposite, is sadly all the public can count on from ‘our’ hypocritical, double-speaking, global corporate-run excuse for a ‘by and for the people’ government.”
Brian states from Newport, Ore.: “I am enraged by the hypocrisy of five innocent men being held in prison under harsh circumstances while known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles goes scot-free. While Bush and cronies spout off that no nation that harbors terrorists will be tolerated with one face, they set a convicted terrorist murderer of at least 73 innocents free with the other, while holding five innocent men in prison.”
Adela, from the Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre Inc. in Queensland, Australia, states, “I want to express my solidarity with the Cuban Five and the Cuban people and Fidel.”
Richard, from Madera, Calif., says succinctly, “It’s way past time to change our policy toward Cuba and the Cuban people.”
Jerry, from Athletes United for Peace, U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, writes: “These people were trying to prevent an act of terrorism. The country that claims to lead the ‘War On Terror’ is imprisoning them.”
Marcos writes from Bielefeld, Germany, “Free the 5 Cubans now, stop the war on Cuba and the rest of the world!”
Richard, in Jacksonville, Ill., says, “Close Guantánamo, human rights are for humans everywhere.”
Ray from Farmington, Conn., suggests, “Put Cheney and Bush in jail instead of the Cuban Five.”
Yancy, from the LGBTQI Desk of Bayan USA, affirms: “Mabuhi ang panaghiusang international!!! Long live international solidarity!!”
Solidarity is not charity
Eric from Milwaukee reminds, “Ah, the things we gain from solidarity.”
By defending Cuba against imperialist warfare, LGBT activists and organizations in the U.S. and other imperialist countries are breaking with their own ruling classes and extending their own unilateral declaration of peace to a socialist country.
By rejecting anti-communism, the movement against sexual, gender and sex oppression is combating capitalist ideology—a giant step towards liberation.
Cuba has much to teach those who yearn for the right to live and love without fear or censure about what it takes to begin the process of literally eradicating white supremacy, patriarchy and prejudice against same-sex love and gender/sex diversity; what it takes to create a new woman, a new man, a new human being, and new forms of communist comradeship.
The Cuban people fought back against enslavement for half a millennium. For the last half century they have resisted the most powerful slave-master in history, just 90 miles from their shores.
The famous labor union song poses the question sharply: Which side are you on?
Rainbow Solidarity answers: “Cuba, we are with you. Cuba, estamos contigo.”
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Original in: http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Solidarity/SLRainbow82707.htm
Worldwide support for Cuban Five grows
Third appeal brings hope, calls for justice
by Gloria La Riva
August 31, 2007
Reprinted from: pslweb.org
“I have been a judge 36 years of my life; for 21 years I have been a judge in two courts of appeals. If I had to rule in this case, I would rule as fast as I can in order to not have these five Cubans one day more in prison.”
Juan Guzmán, the Chilean judge who prosecuted dictator Augusto Pinochet, was one of many prominent attorneys and judges who filled the courtroom of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to witness the third oral argument of the five Cuban political prisoners held in U.S. prisons. Guzmán spoke at a press conference after the hearing.
International and U.S. jurists came to Atlanta to be observers in the Aug. 20 hearing. They represented thousands of other attorneys from their respective associations.
The Cuban Five—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González—were prosecuted for defending Cuba from U.S.-backed terrorists. They were arrested in Miami Sept. 12, 1998 by the FBI and charged with espionage conspiracy, murder conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents—a total of 26 counts.
They were in Miami to monitor and prevent the actions of anti-Cuba terrorist organizations operating there. They never engaged in any espionage on the U.S. government, nor did they conspire to do so.
A charge of conspiracy to commit murder against Gerardo Hernández came seven months after the Five’s arrest. The indictment falsely accused him of plotting with Cuba to shoot down two planes of the terrorist organization Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) on Feb. 24, 1996.
BTTR, based in Miami, had invaded Cuban airspace numerous times in 1995 and 1996 despite repeated warnings from Cuba. Days before the shoot-down, on Jan. 13, 1996, BTTR leader José Basulto boasted publicly of his group’s role in dropping 500,000 leaflets over Havana.
He told the Miami Herald, "Let's just say we take responsibility for those leaflets. But I cannot give you any of the technical details of how we did it."
As BTTR prepared once again to invade Cuban airspace on Feb. 24, Basulto ignored warnings from various U.S. and Cuban authorities. The Cuban government called on the U.S. government to stop BTTR from flying into Cuban airspace to no avail. Two of the planes were shot down by Cuba’s air force as they entered Cuban airspace.
Gerardo Hernández was accused by the U.S. government of conspiring with Cuba to shoot down the planes in international waters, an outrageous claim since he had absolutely nothing to do with Cuba’s actions. Cuba’s act was a justified act of state, and yet Hernández was convicted of murder conspiracy. This was only possible because of a Miami jury trial.
He simply had received a message from Cuba to tell Cuban pilots who had infiltrated BTTR not to fly over a period of several days in February 1996. Even Richard Nuccio, advisor to President Clinton on Cuba matters, testified in the trial that he had warned Clinton on Feb. 23 that Cuba would take direct action against the invading aircraft.
The Miami trial
The trial of the Five began in December 2000. Despite numerous defense motions to move the trial out of Miami’s hostile, anti-Cuba environment, federal judge Joan Lenard denied a change of venue.
With a Miami jury, a conviction on all counts was guaranteed, despite the complete lack of evidence on the two conspiracy charges. The conviction came down on June 8, 2001. The Miami jury did not ask even one question in its deliberation, after a seven-month trial that generated 14,000 transcript pages.
In December 2001, three of the five, Labañino, Guerrero and Hernández, were sentenced to life in prison for the espionage conspiracy. Hernández was sentenced to a second life sentence for the murder conspiracy charge. Fernando González was sentenced to 19 years and René González to 15 years.
The Five won a major victory on Aug. 9, 2005, when a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to overturn their convictions and grant a new trial. The decision was based on the issue of venue in Miami.
But the U.S. government appealed to the court’s full panel and the court accepted the appeal. Exactly one year later, on Aug. 9, 2006, the panel reversed the Five’s victory and ruled to uphold the trial judge’s refusal to move trial out of Miami.
Third oral argument in Atlanta
The 11th Circuit covers the jurisdiction of three southern states: Florida, Alabama and Georgia. About 75 percent of appeals before the court are decided by written briefs alone. The remaining 25 percent of cases are decided by the inclusion of oral arguments.
Leonard Weinglass, attorney for Antonio Guerrero, said he is not aware of any other case having three oral arguments.
The basis for the Aug. 20 hearing was nine unresolved issues of appeal being returned to the original three-judge panel for a ruling.
As the hearing convened at 3:00 p.m. before the full courtroom in downtown Atlanta, supporters of the Five listened intently to hear defense and prosecution give 30-minute presentations.
Before the attorneys began, Judge Stanley Birch made an announcement that the panel rejected the prosecution’s contention that the defense issue of prosecutorial misconduct was not properly before the court. This was a victory for the defense, which cited 28 instances of sustained objections due to the prosecution’s misconduct during the trial.
If the panel were to find that the government exercised repeated instances of misconduct, it would change the standard of review on the convictions of murder conspiracy and espionage conspiracy. Evidence on those charges would then have to be “overwhelming” for the convictions to stand.
As defense attorneys Richard Klugh and Brenda Bryn stated in the hearing, the government never claimed “overwhelming” nor even “strong” evidence on those two charges, which brought four life sentences against three of the Cuban Five. In fact, they said, there is no evidence on either conspiracy charge that the government presented, only “inference after inference.”
Early in the hearing, Birch also called on the prosecution to submit transcripts of an ex parte hearing that took place between the judge and prosecution during trial, where they discussed documents related to the case that the government had labeled classified under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). The defense has never been allowed to see those documents nor know the contents of them.
Under the repressive CIPA, all the possessions of the Five were confiscated when they were arrested and classified “secret.” This denied the Five the right to use their own documents in their defense, to prove that they were not involved in any conspiracy.
The whole hearing lasted one hour and 15 minutes. It is an extremely short time to present oral arguments in such a substantial and complicated appeal.
While those present were encouraged by the defense arguments and strength of the Five’s case in the hearing, justice will not be won by simple court proceedings.
The Cuban Five have been entangled for years in the technicalities of a judicial system whose government has carried out almost 50 years of aggression against Cuba.
The Five have endured nine years of imprisonment for peacefully defending Cuba from terrorism that is launched in Miami and financed by Washington. It will take the continued efforts of the worldwide movement to keep up the pressure until the Five are free.
In the days surrounding the Atlanta hearing, there was substantial media coverage in Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, and almost 100 daily newspapers in the United States.
Original in: http://www.freethefive.org/updates/USMedia/USMPSLweb83107.htm
The Cuban Five -- victims of national security justice
by Saul Landau
Aug. 23, 2007
Reprinted from Progreso Weekly
In 1953, a man I knew got busted for masturbating at a public urinal. A cop had hidden in the ceiling grate above him “to find perverts.” The lawyer, a friend of our family, charged him $5,000. “I gave $500 to the cop,” the lawyer explained, “bought the judge a present and paid two witnesses $250 each to testify that he was wearing a complicated truss and that’s what made it seem like an unnaturally long time for him to get adjusted after he went wee wee,” the defense lawyer explained to my father.
I have no idea if his behavior typified that era or remains a standard today. Comedian Lenny Bruce’s quipped: “In the Hall of Justice the only justice is in the hall,” where the payoffs occurred. Indeed, the poor, not the middle class and certainly not the rich, inhabit U.S. jails and prisons. Most Americans understand that equal justice for all means police will arrest a rich or poor man sleeping under the bridge or stealing a loaf of bread.
Those who can afford expensive lawyers usually get away with murder. Take the cases of Claus von Bulow, who overdosed his rich wife with insulin, or O. J. Simpson, a case where the Los Angeles police actually framed the right guy for wife and friend killing. The accused paid millions of dollars to top lawyers who skillfully placed seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds. Public defenders often lack the resources, time and will to build minimum defenses for poor clients.
In some case, however, even the best defenders can’t buy justice, especially when the government cites “national security.” The Cuban Five case became victims of that phrase that usually means the government will not tell the public what it is doing or why. It reeks with imperial arrogance and often with vengeance as well.
The FBI busted five men (Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzáles, and René Gonzáles) in 1998 and a Miami jury convicted them in 2001 for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit espionage and other serious offenses. The case illustrated the U.S. standard of justice for third world nations that disobey its dictates.
Since Washington had failed to punish Cuba adequately for its near half century of disobedience, the opportunity presented by the Cuban Five fell like a serendipitous apple onto the vengeful ground of the national security elite, the group that wages war and regularly infringes on citizens’ rights in order to “protect” the public. This bureaucratic posse inside executive agencies looks at the public as an obstacle to its imperial ambitions, to the notion of accountability as an irritant, the proverbial pimple on a sewer rat’s butt. The following story illustrates.
In 2004, John Negroponte, then UN Ambassador en route to becoming Ambassador to Iraq and then top U.S. spy, explained why the security elite would have to reject an offer from the Iranian government (under Khatami) to reopen the U.S. embassy and normalize diplomatic relations. “In the last decades, Vietnam, Cuba and Iran have humiliated the United States,” he explained to the diplomat -- a friend of mine -- who delivered the message from the Iranian government. “I suppose we’ve gotten even with the Vietnamese [4 million killed and 20 plus years of sanctions], but there’s no way we’re having relations with Iran or Cuba before they get what’s coming to them.” Since the elite will not wage war on Cuba -- Cubans will fight back -- they used the Cuban Five as surrogate punishment objects.
In the 1990s, these Cuban nationals infiltrated Florida-based anti-Castro terrorist groups and reported on the terrorists’ activities to Havana. In 1998, an FBI delegation traveled to Cuba. Cuban officials gave the FBI some 1,200 pages of material, along with video and audio tapes that incriminated groups and individuals -- their names, weapons they carried or stored and other details that the Justice Department could use to prosecute the terrorists.
The FBI told their Cuban counterparts they would respond in a month. The Cubans are still waiting, but the FBI did use the material. They arrested the Cuban Five. The Justice Department then charged them with felonies.
Irony accompanied injustice. The five admitted they entered the United States to access U.S.-based groups plotting terrorism against Cuba. In fact, U.S. law actually allows people to commit crimes out of a greater necessity, one that would prevent greater harm.
“It is a form of self-defense, extended to acts which will protect other parties,” argued Leonard Weinglass, attorney for Antonio Guerrero, one of the Five. Indeed, the Five’s lawyers presented this argument to trial judge Joan Lenard, but she refused to let the jury consider it.
Weinglass and the other attorneys argued their appeals this month claiming the judge had erred by not submitting the “‘defense of necessity’ claim to the jury, because the Five came to the United States to prevent additional violence, injury and harm to others.”
The U.S. government knew all about the terrorist “accomplishments” of Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, for examples. Both had boasted to reporters about their roles in terrorist acts, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner -- they did this jointly -- in which 73 passengers and crew members perished. In 1998, Posada bragged about sabotaging Cuban tourist sites the previous year. In one bombing carried out by his paid agent, an Italian tourist died.
“We didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he told reporters Larry Rohter and Anne Bradach. “We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don’t come anymore. We don’t want any more foreign investment.” Posada said he wanted potential tourists to think Cuba was unstable “and to encourage internal opposition.”
Posada succeeded. Less tourists came to Cuba after the Italian died in the bombing. The Times reporters write that Posada “declared that he had a clear conscience, saying, ‘I sleep like a baby.’” Then he said: “That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.” (NY Times July 13, 1998)
The Five came here precisely to stop such activities, says Weinglass. “The Five’s activities were justified and necessary in order to save lives.” Weinglass had used this very argument to defend Amy Carter, when the President’s daughter “occupied a building, with other students, at the University of Massachusetts, in opposition to the CIA agents who came to the campus to recruit students into the CIA. She acknowledged that her occupation of the building was a crime but she argued that that was justified by the doctrine of necessity because the CIA was then engaged in an illegal war in Nicaragua.” The jury acquitted Amy and the other defendants.
Weinglass made a similar argument before a two-judge appeals court. In August 2005, this court initially heard the case and decided that the Five had not received a fair trial. The entire 12 judge panel of the 11th circuit reversed that decision despite massive evidence to show the Miami jurors had felt intimidated. From the window of the deliberation room they saw people taking photos of their license plates. Jurors had reason to fear serious retribution should they vote to acquit the Five.
The lawyers also appealed the conviction of Gerardo Hernandez for “conspiring” to commit murder. This charge arose from the February 1996 shoot-down by Cuban MIGs of two Brothers to the rescue planes that had violated Cuban airspace and were repeatedly warned of “grave consequences” should they enter Cuban territory without permission. At the trial, the Assistant U.S. Attorney acknowledged that he had no solid evidence to back up this charge.
Weinglass noted that the Gerardo conviction marked “the first time in history that an individual is being held liable for the action of a sovereign state in defending its airspace.” Indeed, Cuba had every reason and the right to maintain sovereignty over its air space. The prosecutor made outrageous claims to the jury without citing evidence and the judge let him. He argued without facts that Cuba had sent the men to attack the United States. For the first time in legal U.S. history, the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecuted a case without even referring to a single classified document.
The Five stole no secrets; unlike FBI Special Agent Robert Hansen, or the CIA’s Aldrich Ames who passed tens of thousands of “top secrets” to the Soviet enemy, but two of them like the real spies, got life imprisonment.
Was U.S. justice fairer when a lawyer could bribe a cop in a meaningless case and rich guys could buy their way out of murder raps -- as they still do? Not if one recalls the “national security” framing of Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s and the 1953 execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, even though FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover and President Dwight Eisenhower both knew they had not passed atomic secrets to the Soviets. The government had invoked “national security” under which no justice occurs, not even in the halls.
Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His new book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD.
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