Call to the Parliaments and Peoples of the World: Urgent Solidarity with the Five

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Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González Llort and René González Sehwerert will soon be serving eleven years of unjust prison terms.

After a devious and arbitrary trial last June 15, the US Supreme Court decided to ignore the unprecedented universal clamour for the case to be reviewed. The judges preferred to do what the Obama administration requested and without paying any attention, they ignored the solid arguments presented by the defence and by a dozen supporting documents signed by ten Nobel laureates, legislative bodies, hundreds of parliamentarians, jurist organizations from numerous countries including the US, and personalities defending human rights, academics, religious people and others representing millions of people on all continents.

In this manner, the Court validated a never-ending series of violations of law and of legal procedure and also became an accomplice of the shameful policy of promoting and supporting terrorism that has been and is the substance of the mighty injustice of which our Five Compatriots have been made victims. The list of those violations is long; any one of them would be enough to decree immediate liberty for the accused.

Immediately after being arrested in the dawn of Saturday, September 12, 1998, the FBI informed representatives of the terrorist mafia and the mass communications media in Miami, who started at that time an unleashed and intense campaign of hatred and lies that has not ceased, describing them falsely as “spies” and plotting with the government to include the February 24, 1996 incident as part of the accusation after they had been imprisoned for more than six months.

From the moment of their arrest and during 17 months they were submitted to solitary confinement, placed in punishment cells, isolated from the outside world, in violation of the very US prison regulations that limit such treatment to a maximum of sixty days and is used only for dangerous prisoners who have committed serious crimes inside the prisons. This cruel procedure has been practiced against them, later, on several occasions, with no justification whatsoever, to prevent them from mounting their defence. Thus they were again locked up for several weeks in the ominous “hole” in June 2001, while they were supposed to be preparing for their only opportunity to address the Court at the close of the trial; they returned to the infamous double incarceration, under even tougher conditions, during the entire month of March, 2003, exactly when time was expiring for them to lodge their appeal before the Atlanta Court.

Throughout more than ten years, they and their lawyers, have faced the greatest of obstacles in order to exercise their rights. They were denied access to a large part of the evidence that sustained the fraudulent accusations set down against them, rejecting more than ten motions presented by the defence before the trial began. They remain in five separate prisons, spread apart in isolated places over US territory, whereupon it is very difficult for them to communicate with their lawyers. We must add that several times, always at decisive moments in the process, the legal correspondence they needed to draw up their appeal, did not was received by them or it was delayed. Gerardo Hernández Nordelo never received the documents relating to his petition to the Supreme Court that were sent to him by certified mail at the beginning of this year. This clear and inexcusable violation of the rights of the prisoner his lawyer is an example of the constant obstacles to Gerardo’s communication with the outside that persist in spite of the numerous Cuban protests to the US authorities.

Development of the fallacious trial was, in its entirety, a macabre farce. The government insisted that it be held in Miami where, precisely at the same time, the scandalous kidnapping of Elián González was taking place, a six-year-old child whose rescue was achieved by Washington sending Special Forces from the capital since all the local authorities and agencies were accomplices of the kidnappers. The district attorney’s office refused to move the trial to the neighbouring city of Fort Lauderdale, half an hour away.

The government flagrantly lied when it alleged that Miami was a suitable place in those days, in a hostile and threatening atmosphere created by Elián’s kidnappers and nevertheless some years later in 2002, when government officials appeared in a civil lawsuit, they requested the change of venue adducing that nothing, even something of lesser importance and only indirectly related to Cuba could be tried fairly in Miami (Ramírez vs. Ashcroft, 01-4835 Civ-Huck, June 25, 2002). The question of the denial of a change of venue and the prevailing environment there, lead to the panel of judges in Atlanta on August 9, 2005 to unanimously declare the entire trial null and void and to order that it be held in a different venue (Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, No. 01-17176, 03-11087). In an unusual action contrary to US norms and practice, the government appealed against this historical decision and forced the Court of Appeals, by a divided vote, to reverse it.

On May 27 of the same years, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded, for the first time in a case related to the United States, that the privation of liberty of the Cuban Five is arbitrary and in contradiction with the international convenants due to the violations commited during the legal process and urged the US Government to inmediately take measures to resolve that arbitrarieness.

After forcing the trial to be held in Miami, the government took other steps to ensure the most severe and unjust sentences. In the jury selection it manifested evident racism when it succeeded in excluding the majority of the potential Afro-American jury members. The District Attorney’s Office allowed all kinds of pressure and threats to the jury members who were chased into the interior of the building, hounded by the crowd and harassed by journalists who were paid by the government and in the service of the terrorists, to such a point that several times they expressed apprehension and concern for their safety; compelling the judge to complain and implore the government to do something to remedy the situation. (Official trial transcript, pages 111, 112, 14644-14646).

The so-called evidence against them, whimsically classified as secret was fraudulently manipulated in order to fabricate the main charges whose falseness would be acknowledged later on by the government itself and by the Court of Appeals. Senior military officers, who appeared as witnesses or experts and went over the alleged evidence, stated, all of them without exception, under oath, that they had not found anything that implied the searching of cecret information nor that affected the national security of the United States. (Rear Admiral (R) Eugene Carroll «Official trial transcript, pages 8196-8301», Army General (R) Edward Breed Atkeson «Idem, pages 11049-11199», General and former Commander of Southern Command Charles Elliot Wilhelm «Idem pages 11491-11547», Air Force Lieut.-General (R) James R. Clapper «Idem pages 13089-1335»). The en banc Court of Appeals unanimously determined in September 2008 that there was no evidence that the accused had “gathered or transmitted top secret information” nor that they had damaged the national security of the United States and thus it decided that the sentences for Charge 2 (conspiracy to commit espionage) were erroneous, it vacated them and remanded Ramon and Antonio for resentencing (Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court, No. 01-17176, D.C Docket No. 98-00721-CR-JAL, pages 70-81). Nevertheless, as an astounding discrimination, even though it acknowledged that the same procedure should be applied to Gerardo, it refused to do so adducing that a life sentence was already weighing against him.

As for Fernando González, for other reasons, the Court also declared the sentence imposed to be erroneous, declared it null and void and remanded for resentencing (Ibidem, pages 67-69). We must emphasize that these “errors” cannot be attributed only to the Court that imposed the exact sentences requested by the district attorney’s office. .

There is no greater evidence of prevarication than the other life sentence punishing Gerardo Hernández Nordelo for the so-called Charge 3 (conspiracy to commit murder).

The government itself, in May 2001, recognized that “in light of the evidence presented in this trial” Charge 3 could not be proven since it supposed “an insurmountable hurdle to the prosecution”, it asked for it to be modified at the last minute and appealed to the Court of Atlanta for that, in a step that the district attorney’s office acknowledged lacked of precedents (Emergency petition for writ of prohibition- pages 1 to 8 and 27 to 31). Having been denied the petition the most unlikely thing happened. Without one single question, in a few minutes, the jury declared Gerardo guilty for an alleged crime he did not commit and that the US Government itself recognized that they could not prove it.

This is the undeniable evidence that in Miami that so-called trial could be nothing other than a gross lie. Terrified, pressured and threatened, the jury had spent seven months in a room overflowing with the same delinquents whom they had seen in the local media carrying out the kidnapping of a child, defying the government and the law and threatening to set fire to the city and they heard them demand that the Court pass the worst punishment on Gerardo.

In spite of being aware of such precedents, the district attorney’s office asked for and got the life sentence.

The disproportionate prison terms imposed on the Five contrast eloquently with those applied in recent years on other persons accused of really practicing espionage, sometimes at an uncommon scale, and even on some tied in with violent armed actions against the United States. None of them was condemned to life sentences; all of them received lesser sentences than our comrades, some have already served the sentences and are free and others, convicted of espionage, have had their charges withdrawn by the Obama administration and were set free.

But there is an even more revealing aspect about the true nature of the whole process that demonstrates that the purpose of the government was to protect and give shelter to the terrorists, to prevent their sinister plans from being discovered, thus becoming accomplice and cover-up for their future outrages. To achieve that, besides the exaggerated prison sentences, and recognizing the heroic mission of struggle against terrorism that they were carrying out, they imposed on our comrades an additional restriction after the sanction were fulfilled; that they should be “incapacitated” from again trying something to harm the terrorists. This was expressed in the sentence against René González in these words: “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” (Transcript of the hearing for sentencing, December 2001, pp. 45-46),

So important was the “incapacitation” for the US authorities that they imposed the same prohibition on Antonio Guerrero, who already had a life sentence plus ten years. As for the other three comrades, born in Cuba, once their sentences are served they would be immediately expelled from US territory. The terrorists have nothing to fear there. They don’t have to hide to openly announce, as they already do, new criminal actions.

Those who have unfairly incarcerated Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René show an unpardonable cruelty towards their relatives with complicated and frustrating procedures to get the visas they need to visit them, thus ignoring the rights of the prisoners and their families. Especially outrageous is the situation faced by Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva who have regularly been denied the possibility of visiting their husbands. The US authorities have refused up to now to allow them the visits, turning a deaf ear to the repeated petitions of religious, human rights, trade union and intellectual organizations from all over the world.

The way Adriana is treated is so despicable that it is difficult to conceive. Gerardo has to serve two life sentences plus fifteen years, he has not seen his wife in eleven years and the Supreme Court refused to consider his case. July 15, exactly one month after that condemnable decision and the day of their wedding anniversary, was the day chosen by the Department of State to communicate her, for the tenth time, the negation of a visa, alleging that Adriana “is a threat to the stability and national security of the United States”.

To the irrational sentence imposed on Gerardo, this abominable torment has been added, something truly sadistic for two innocent young people; it should be vigorously condemned by all humanity.

By refusing to review the case, the Supreme Court practically closes the legal channels for its solution. All that is left are the next resentences for Ramón, Antonio and Fernando before the same Miami judge. We must demand her to free them now.

We are entering into a new phase where the responsibility of the administration, specifically that of President Obama, is greater.

The president has the constitutional authority and the moral obligation to see that justice is carried out. He can and must do so. For that he must see to it that the principal charges being used against our compatriots are dropped. Both charges were already severely questioned: by the Appeals Court and by his predecessor in the White House. He has to do this if he hopes to project an image of change towards Latin America and the world.

The terrorists jubilantly celebrate the conduct of the present administration that continues to guarantee the impunity of Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, guilty of the destruction of a civilian flight in mid-air and the death of 73 people, while cruelly punishing those who, without harming anyone, handed over their youth in order to stop the misdeeds of these and other criminals.

The National Assembly of the Peoples’ Power demands the urgent solidarity of all legislative bodies, parliamentarians and political and social organizations and people of good will all over the world and it calls on them to mobilize and demand the immediate freedom of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René. We the Cuban men and women, for whom they sacrificed their lives, will know how to tirelessly fight until we have them returned, free, to their grateful Homeland.

Havana, August 1, 2009
National Assembly of the Peoples’ Power of the Republic of Cuba


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