Free The Cuban Five

Imagine an espionage defendant convicted of a crime in which no classified documents or information was compromised. Now, imagine five such defendants.

Imagine a group of pro-Castro Cubans standing trial for espionage, in Miami, Florida, of all places, where hundreds of thousands of anti-Castro, Cuban exiles reside. There is an African proverb which describes their plight: “In a court of fowls, the cockroach never wins his case.”

Imagine such a Kangaroo Court where the principles of law and justice are disregarded and perverted, but just to make sure things go their way, the government made extensive payments to Miami journalists covering the trial of the five men, in order to manipulate public opinion against the defendants.

Sounds like a Banana Republic, and not the Good Old U.S. of A., doesn’t it?

“This is the first time in our history that there’s been an espionage charge, conspiracy to commit espionage. The government admitted they could not prove espionage. But even conspiracy to commit espionage, there wasn’t a single page of classified document involved in this case,” celebrated attorney Leonard Weinglass told Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! in 2007.

“That never happened before. Furthermore, the defense was able to call General Atkinson, General Wilhelm, Admiral Carol, the adviser to the President of the United States on Cuba, all these witnesses for the defense. That never happened before in an espionage case,” Weinglass, who died this March 21 on his 78th birthday, said in 2007.

Well, two members of the Cuban Five as they are known, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernández, revealed new legal briefs in court filings recently, stating there is extensive evidence of these conditions, and evidence of their innocence. This is their final legal opportunity to obtain a new trial and overturn what they insist are their unjust convictions.

Hernández, who is serving life without parole for the downing of two planes from the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue organization–in which he insists he had no role–explained for the first time, in his own words, his claims of innocence.

In the affidavit, Hernández explained that he was denied due process and never told that he could testify on his own behalf if he separated his case from the others. If he had known, he said he would have testified on his own behalf. He lists in details facts that support his innocence, which he was unable to present during his trial.

Cuban Five attorney Richard Klugh said there were “compelling and irrefutable facts that we believe would exonerate Gerardo Hernández completely.”

“Now that Gerardo has the opportunity to speak in his own words he is detailing how he is completely innocent, both factually and legally, and in every possible sense. It’s just a terrible injustice that he is being stigmatized as if he had participated in some kind of an attempt to kill,” attorney Klugh told reporters in a conference call.

“It is essential that the public be made aware of (the new filings) as well,” Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five said in a statement. There are thousands of active supporters of the Five around the world, according to the committee.

“Most importantly, we demand that the Obama administration immediately free the Cuban Five, (based) on the importance of Hernandez’s affidavit,” the committee’s statement said.

The Hernandez’s appeal, as well as that of Antonio Guerrero and the upcoming appeal of Ramon Labañino, will also present evidence of extensive payments from the U.S. government to Miami journalists covering the trial of the five men, in order to manipulate public opinion against them. The U.S. government gets to respond to the new Cuban Five appeals on April 17th.

There was “a distinct, fundamental violation of the premises of a fair trial where the government secretly paid highly influential journalists,” defendant Antonio Guerrero said in his memorandum.

Anyone who is familiar with the plight of Mumia Abu Jamal, Imam Jamil El Amin, with the Scottsboro Boys, with George Jackson, with the Honorable Marcus Garvey, who were innocent all the time, but were wrongfully railroaded can easily understand the plight of the Cuban Five.

And let’s not forget the hundreds of wrongfully convicted men–some on death row, just minutes before their scheduled executions–who were cleared when DNA evidence emphatically proved their innocence. Gross mistakes often happen in the “criminal injustice system.”

Or as Richard Pryor correctly described those who are subjected to the “justice” system: that’s right, it’s “just us.”

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