Cuban Five at the US Social Forum

Marjorie Cohn

On June 28, lead Cuban Five counsel and longtime National Lawyers Guild member Leonard Weinglass and I participated in a workshop at the US Social Forum. Another member of the legal team, attorney Roberto Gonzáles, also spoke. Roberto’s brother René is one of the Five. For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba. One of the most notorious terrorists is Luis Posada Carriles, sometimes called the Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere. Years ago, Posada oversaw the torture and murder of people opposing the Venezuelan government’s policies. Declassified FBI and CIA documents reveal that Posada Carriles was the mastermind of a 1976 in-air bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Yet after Posada illegally entered the United States in 2005, he wasn’t charged with any terrorist crimes, but merely an immigration violation. After Posada Carriles, a longtime employee of the CIA, issued a veiled threat to tell of the CIA’s dirty deeds when George H.W. Bush was CIA director, charges against him were dismissed and he is a free man today.

Meanwhile, five Cubans came to the United States to gather intelligence on planned terrorist attacks against Cuba. They gave the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working with Cuba to fight terrorism, which the United States is required to do under the post-9/11 Security Council Resolution 1373, the five men were charged and convicted of conspiracy-related crimes and they are collectively serving four life terms plus 75 years.

After their arrest the Five were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months and denied contact with attorneys and family. The US government has refused to issue visas to allow some of their wives to visit them in prison.

In August 2005, their convictions were reversed because a 3-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit found they could not get a fair trial in Miami. But in October 2005, the full court sitting en banc reinstated their convictions after Alberto Gonzales appealed the panel’s ruing. Additional legal challenges are pending before the panel, which will be heard August 20 in Atlanta.

Gerardo Hernández, another one of the Cuban Five, is serving two life sentences. He sent this message to the meeting at the Social Forum: “We are hostages of the unsuccessful policy of the USA towards Cuba,” which, “as any other country of the world has the right to defend itself against terrorism. And that was exactly what we were doing. We were monitoring terrorist organizations in Miami to prevent violent actions against our homeland.” Referring to the bombing of the Cubana airliner, Gerardo added, “The fact that crimes like those are still unpunished, is a signal that we have to continue fighting in this world where we are living.”

The contrast between the US government’s treatment of Posada Carriles and the Cuban Five illustrates the hypocrisy of the Bush administration, which disingenuously claims to be fighting a “war on terror.”

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