18 February 2006. Thanks to A.
All text has been taken from mails put together by the Irish National Campaign seeking justice for the Miami 5. A website put together by the National Campaign in the US is http://freethefive.org/
I have put the sources and links to appropriate sites where possible before each piece.
This piece was written by Radio Havana correspondent Bernie Dwyer:
Atlanta Appeal Court Judge had Prosecution "on the Ropes" at Cuban Five Appeal Hearing
Atlanta, 14th February, (RHC)--Today's hearing on the case of the five Cubans incarcerated in US prisons on charges of being a threat to the security of the United States, among others, at the Elbert P. Tuttle court room of the 11th Circuit Appeals court house in Atlanta took nobody by surprise. According to defense lawyers, Leonard Weinglass, representing Antonio Guerrero and Paul McKenna, defending Gerardo Hernandez, the line of questioning by the twelve judges of the appeals court was what they had expected and were prepared for.
The court room was packed for the hearing which started at 9am and continued for one hour. The time allotted to hear the defense and prosecution was equally divided between both sides. Family members of the five Cubans were present for the hearing alongside international observers and supporters. Representatives of the anti-Cuban terrorist groups in Miami also attended.
On August 9th 2005 the three judge panel of the Court overturned the convictions and sentences of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez on the grounds that they could not receive a fair and impartial hearing in the hostile climate of Miami. The District Attorney in Miami asked for a re-hearing of the case following consultation with Washington which was accepted by a majority of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The oral arguments centered on the issue of venue and jury selection with Leonard Weinglass, and Richard Klugh, Public Defender in Miami, presenting the case for the defense and Richard Buckner acting for the US prosecution.
The vigorous questioning of both the defense and the prosecution addressed the key issue of whether or not there is pervasive community prejudice in Miami that would require a retrial in an alternative location. Judge Birch, who presided at the original appeal hearing, made several interventions that put the prosecution on the defensive and enabled the defense to sharpen its arguments.
Weinglass believed that the case had received a fair hearing and was confident that the twelve judges would now give full consideration to the arguments. He was hopeful and optimistic that finally after seven years the convictions of the Five would be reversed.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has never found in favor of the defense so history would be made if the original appeal finding were upheld. The fact that Presiding Judge Edmondson did not intervene in the questioning is seen as favorable by the defense team.
Defense lawyer Paul McKenna told Radio Havana Cuba in a short interview after the hearing that Judge Birch came out very strongly on the question of jury interference and intimidation during the Miami trial. McKenna pointed out that the problem went on throughout the trial where jurors were followed to their cars and had their license plates photographed, which were shown on Miami television during the duration of the trial. McKenna stated that Judge Birch caught the prosecution on that issue and "like a boxer, had him on the ropes".
During a press conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Atlanta, Leonard Weinglass described the Miami trial of the five Cuban anti-terrorists fighters as "a perfect storm of prejudice"
The decision of the 12 judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta is expected within two months.
WHO ARE THE MIAMI FIVE?
Five Cubans who were trying to stop Miami-based terrorist groups from carrying out violent actions against the people of Cuba. They were found guilty of charges ranging from murder to espionage by a court in Miami which relied on the evidence of convicted terrorists. All are innocent of the charges brought against them. Extensive intimidation of jurists by these same terrorists was a feature of the trial. They are currently appealing their convictions.
This piece is text from a campaign update, composed by the National Campaign seeking justice for the Five:
Campaign Update 10 Feb 06
Nobel prize winner and 110 British MPs demand the immediate liberation of the Miami Five
Nobel prize winner, Harold Pinter, 110 MPs, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London and 15 trade union General Secretaries are among 10,000 British names on an open letter sent by the UK's Cuba Solidarity Campaign to the US Attorney General calling for the immediate release of the Cuban Five.
They join 51 members of DÃ¡il Eireann and Gerry Adams MP, 10 Nobel Prize Winners and more than 5,000 renowned intellectuals, Amnesty International, the US National Council of the Churches of Christ and the United Nations Committee on Arbitrary Detentions who have all spoken out in support of the Five in the past few weeks.
Rob Miller, Director of the UK's Cuba Solidarity Campaign said: "The fact that 110 MPs have already signed this letter in such a short space of time is a testament to the strength of injustice felt throughout Britain about this case."
The Open letter has been released by the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) in advance of the new hearing on 13 February 2006 to gain publicity for cause of the Five in the UK and internationally.
Many British MPs were moved to add their names to the letter after a meeting at the House of Commons with, Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez in December 2005, which took place during a visit to the UK by her and her daughter Ivette, organised by the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
The delegation undertook a programme throughout the UK organised by CSC, most importantly with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cuba, Mrs Salanueva explained to MPs how she and her 7-year-old daughter Ivette had been unable to visit Rene for 5 years because the US refuses to grant her a visa.
Chair of the APPG Dr Ian Gibson said "The fact that these men were arrested and charged with spying because they infiltrated US based groups carrying out terrorist attacks on Cuba, exposes the double standards of the United States War on Terror."
The open letter which also condemns the treatment of the prisoners' families has been signed by over 10,000 people in Britain.
Just one week ago, Amnesty International also joined the international call for a retrial of the prisoners. In a letter to the US State Department the international human rights group raised "urgent concerns" and "serious questions" about the fairness of their convictions.
On hearing how many MPs and supporters had signed the letter, Olga Salanueva, thanked the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign and public for their support. Speaking from Cuba she said: "During these seven years of suffering and sorrow, we the relatives of the Five, feel that we are not alone because we can count on honest people like you. The fact that Harold Pinter has also signed this letter along with more than 100 MPs really shows our families that the solidarity I felt when I was in the UK in December 2005 is a real force. I am sure that support such as this from friends across the world will help to bring our loved ones home."
Rob Miller, Director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign said: "The Cuba Solidarity Campaign first wrote to MPs in late December about the case. The fact that more than 100 have already signed the open letter in such a short space of time is a testament to the strength of injustice felt throughout Britain about this case."
Mr. Alberto Gonzales Attorney General of the United States of America
According to information supplied by International Press, on August 9, 2005, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta declared null and void the decision passed in Miami which had condemned Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Rene Gonzãlez Sehwerert, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodreguez and Fernando Gonzalez Llort for infiltrating the extremist Cuban American groups in the south of Florida in order to obtain information about terrorist activities directed against Cuba. Their prison sentences had already been declared illegal by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.
For the past seven years, these five young men have been held in maximum security prisons; they have been held incommunicado in isolated cells for long periods of time and two of them have been denied the right to receive family visits.
At this present time, considering the nullification of the sentence, nothing justifies their incarceration. This arbitrary situation, which is extremely painful for them and their families, cannot be allowed to continue. We, who have signed below, are demanding their immediate liberation.
British signatories to the open letter on the Miami Five to the US Attorney General
110 Members of Parliament
Diane Abbott, David Anderson, John Austin, Gordon Banks, John Battle, Joe Benton, Roger Berry, David Borrow, Lyn Brown, Richard Burden, Colin Burgon, Ronnie Campbell, Martin Caton, David Chaytor, Michael Clapham, Katy Clark, Harry Cohen, Michael Connarty, Frank Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Cousins, Jon Cruddas, Ann Cryer, John Cummings, Ian Davidson, Janet Dean, Jim Devine, Andrew Dismore, Jim Dobbin, Brian Donohoe, David Drew, Clive Efford, Jeff Ennis, Bill Etherington, Mark Fisher, Paul Flynn, Hywel Francis, Neil Gerrard, Ian Gibson, Roger Godsiff, Nia Griffith, Fabian Hamilton, Stephen Hepburn, David Heyes, Kelvin Hopkins, Brian Iddon, Brian Jenkins, Martin Jones, Lynne Jones, Piara Khabra, Peter Kilfoyle, Dr Ashok Kumar, David Lepper,Tony Lloyd, Andy Love, Rob Marris, Gordon Marsden, Robert Marshall-Andrews, Chris McCafferty, Kerry McCarthy, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Austin Mitchell, Madeleine Moon, Julie Morgan, George Mudie, Chris Mullin, Doug Naysmith, Edward O'Hara, Albert Owen, Nick Palmer, Greg Pope, Stephen Pound, Andy Reed, Linda Riordan, Chris Ruane, Joan Ruddock, Martin Salter, Jim Sheriden, Clare Short, Alan Simpson, Marsha Singh, Dennis Skinner, Angela E Smith, Geraldine Smith, Sir Peter Soulsby, Graham Stringer, David Taylor, Emily Thornberry, Jon Trickett, Desmond Turner, Rudi Vis, Robert Wareing, Betty Williams, Mike Wood, Derek Wyatt.
Liberal Democrat (10)
Tom Brake, Vince Cable, Edward Davey, Don Foster, Mike Hancock, Dr Evan Harris, John Hemming, Paul Holmes, David Howarth, John Leech.
Plaid Cymru (2)
Elfyn Llwyd, Hywel Williams.
Trade Union General Secretaries
Brendan Barber, General Secretary, TUC. Bob Crow, RMT, General Secretary. Jeremy Dear, NUJ, General Secretary. John Hannett, USDAW, General Secretary. Billy Hayes, CWU, General Secretary. Steve Kemp, NUM, General Secretary. Paul Kenny, GMB, Acting General Secretary. Paul Mackney, NATFHE, General Secretary. Joe Marino, BFAWU, General Secretary. Doug Nicholls, CYWU, General Secretary. Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary. Alan Ritchie, UCATT General Secretary. Derek Simpson, AMICUS General Secretary. Tony Woodley, TGWU General Secretary. Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary.
Harold Pinter (2005 Nobel Prize Winner), Benjamin Zephaniah, Terry Eagleton, Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London), Tony Benn, Baroness Prosser, Lord Beaumont, Baroness Gibson
There will be a press conference after the oral arguments in Atlanta, Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 12 noon, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, 181 Peachtree St NE.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals courthouse is 56 Forsyth St. SW. For the press that can't attend, they can call into a phone number and listen to the conference. However, questions will not be possible.
Again this text is taken from an International Campaign seeking justice for the 5 update, composed by them. There is a letter included from Susan Lee, Program Director,Americas Regional Program Amnesty International, to Kevin Whitaker, office of Cuban Affairs, United States Department of State: http://www.amnesty.org/
25 Jan 06
Amnesty International again condemns US human rights abuses in the Miami Five case
Amnesty International has condemned the US authorities for the treatment of the Five, specifically their denial of family visits. Amnesty also refers to the US failure to respond to their previous letters pointing out human rights abuses inflicted in this case.
The release of this latest letter to the media in the run up to the rehearing of the Five's appeal with the promise to "follow closely" the proceedings will add to the international political pressure seeking to ensure a fair re-hearing of this appeal. The full12-member court will re-hear the appeal during the second week of February 2006, a delegated 3-member court having previously overturned all of their convictions unanimously in August 2005.
Ref.: AMR 51/01/06
Office of Cuban Affairs
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
11th January 2006
Dear Mr Whitaker,
Amnesty International has written to the US government previously regarding Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzales and Renw Gonzales (commonly known as the " Miami Five") who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the USA after being convicted of conspiracy to act as agents of the Cuban government and related charges. One of the issues on which we have raised concern is the US government's decision to deny Renã Gonzãles and Gerardo Hernãndez visits with their wives. Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzales (sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment), has been refused entry to the USA since 2002 and Rene Gonzales has consequently not seen his young daughter since she was four months' old. Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez (sentenced to life imprisonment), has not been permitted to visit her husband since his arrest in 1998. International standards emphasize the importance of prisoners maintaining regular contact with their families, including through visits. We are concerned that the long-term, permanent denial of visits from their immediate families has caused substantial hardship to Renw Gonzales and Gerardo Hernandez beyond the penalties imposed. The denial of visits has also reportedly had a detrimental impact on family members, including Rene Gonzales' young child who is unable to travel without her mother. We believe that, in the absence of a clear and immediate threat posed by such visits, this measure is unnecessarily punitive and contrary both to standards for the humane treatment of prisoners and to states' obligation to protect family life.
Amnesty International is aware that visas have been denied in these cases on national security grounds, including the fact that Olga Salanueva was deported from the USA in 2000 after being accused by the US government of being an agent for Cuban intelligence. No evidence was provided on which she could respond to this claim. Amnesty International understands that Olga Salanueva continued to live legally in the USA for two and a half years during the trial proceedings against her husband and was deported only after her husband refused to enter a plea arrangement in return for her being allowed to remain in the United States. Since then, both she and Adriana Pérez have been denied visas under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act relating variously to terrorism, espionage or national security, again without detailed reasons being given. In December 2003 Amnesty International wrote to the US Justice Department urging the government to ensure that the visitor visa applications in these cases be considered with the utmost fairness and that the applicants be afforded an opportunity to make full representations. Yet two years later, no such measures appear to have been taken. Furthermore, the reasons given for denying visas to allow them to visit their husbands have reportedly changed at various points, making it more difficult for the applicants to make their case and raising questions about the good faith of the authorities in this matter. We understand that Adriana Pérez, for example, was denied a visa last September on the unsupported ground that she may seek to remain in the USA.
Such denial of family visits for convicted prisoners would represent a substantial hardship in any case. This is of even more urgent concern in the present cases given the serious questions which have been raised about the fairness of the convictions. As you will be aware, in August 2005 a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals overturned the convictions of all of the above prisoners and ordered a retrial. This was based on a finding that the pervasive community prejudice against the Cuban government and its agents in the trial venue and the publicity and events surrounding the trial combined to create a situation where they were unable to obtain a fair and impartial trial. The defendants raised numerous other issues challenging the fairness of the trial which have not yet been addressed by the appeal courts. Meanwhile, in May 2005, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion that the five had been arbitrarily deprived of liberty based on failure to guarantee the right to a fair trial in a number of key areas. The five remain in prison pending a government appeal against the Fourth Circuit's decision, proceedings which Amnesty International shall follow closely. We urge the US government in the meantime to take every step to ensure that the five are treated fairly and are not subjected to any undue deprivations while they continue to be incarcerated, including denial of family visits.
We understand that the decision on issuing visitors' visas in the cases of Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez is now a matter for the State Department. We urge you to review this matter with a view to facilitating visits with their husbands in prison as soon as possible, with due regard to any conditions that may be required. We attach copies of some of our previous correspondence with the Justice Department on this issue.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Americas Regional Program
This text is taken from an update composed by the National Campaign seeking justice for the 5 and has an article from Agencia Cubana de noticias (AIN) http://www.ain.cubaweb.cu/ :
10 November 2005
Support for Five Voiced by Former US Attorney General
The 50 Irish TDs and Senators who called on the US to release the Five have now been joined by the former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark. He described the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters held in US prisons as "heroes" for struggling for peace and against violence.
Hundreds of lawmakers from around the world have joined the international chorus of disapproval for the continuing unjustified detention of the Five. The United Nations Committee on Arbitrary Detentions, Amnesty International and human rights activists in over 100 countries around the world have similarly called on the US authorities to free theses political prisoners or at least provide them with a fair trial.
The US response has been to cynically use administrative delay to keep them behind bars and prolong the suffering of their families.
Agencia Cubana de Noticias (AIN) http://www.ain.cubaweb.cu
Support for Cuban Five Voiced by Former US Attorney General
Havana, Nov. 9 (AIN) Former US attorney general and Gandhi Peace Award recipient Ramsey Clark described five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters held in US prisons as "heroes" for struggling for peace and against violence.
Clark, who served as the US attorney general during the Lyndon Johnson administration from 1967 to 1969, noted that the Cuban Five did not commit any crime, since "their mission was to guard the security, the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban people."
Speaking at the third Peoples Summit of the Americas, in Argentina, Clark noted that the "Cuban Five" -- Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero -- had been active, prior to their arrests in Miami, attempting to prevent terrorist attacks against the island.
"It is clear that no trial related to Cuba can be held in Miami due to the extreme anti-Cuba hostility in that city," stated the former US official in an exclusive with the AIN news agency.
"The case should have never been held in Miami, as was unanimously ruled this past August 9 by a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta, which overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial," said Clark. On October 31, the prosecution appealed the Atlanta court for a review of the panel's decision by larger 12-judge body.
After seven years in prison for crimes the Cuban Five never committed, most legal experts believe there are no grounds for keeping the men behind bars.