The New York Times: Judge Reduces Sentence for One of Cuban Five

IAN URBINA   2009-10-14    

Your browser may not support display of this image. Former President Carter’s national security adviser recognizes impossibility of a fair trial in Miami. A federal judge in Miami approved a lighter sentence Tuesday for one of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of spying on anti-Castro Cuban exiles. 


 
The case of the men, commonly known as the Cuban Five, has strained relations between the United States and Cuba for more than a decade. 
 
An appeals court last year threw out sentences for three of them, finding the punishment too harsh because the government had never proved that they had traded in “top secret” intelligence. 
 
In the late 1990s, the men infiltrated Cuban-American exile organizations that opposed the Castro government, including some of the more activist groups like Brothers to the Rescue, which regularly made unauthorized flights over Cuba to drop leaflets. 
 
In Cuba, the five are considered political prisoners, and the Cuban government has lobbied for their release, arguing that they were not spying on the United States so much as trying to ferret out right-wing anti-Castro terrorists determined to hurt Cuba. 
 
On Tuesday, Judge Joan A. Lenard of Federal District Court replaced the life sentence for one of the men, Antonio Guerrero, with a sentence of 262 months, or almost 22 years, which means he will be out of prison in about seven years, counting time served since his 1998 arrest and time off for good behavior. Prosecutors and Mr. Guerrero’s lawyers had asked for the sentence to be reduced to 240 months. 
 
“It was odd,” said Leonard Weinglass, Mr. Guerrero’s lawyer. “You have a man who was on a military base but who didn’t take a single classified document and no one testified that he injured U.S. national security, but the judge still rejects the prosecutors’ request to lighten the sentence.” 
 
Mr. Guerrero, a United States citizen, was convicted of spying for Cuba while working at the Naval Air Station in Key West. 
 
In May 2005, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled that the men’s trial fell below international standards for due process and that the United States should either retry or release them. 
 
All five men were arrested in 1998 and convicted of acting as unregistered foreign agents and conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States. 
 
A sentencing hearing for two of the others has been postponed. 
 
Robert A. Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University, said the case still raised concerns. “Holding a trial for five Cuban intelligence agents in Miami is about as fair as a trial for an Israeli intelligence agent in Tehran,” said Dr. Pastor, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser for Latin America. “You’d need a lot more than a good lawyer to be taken seriously.”

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