Comité Nacional por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos

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The Cuban Five: Ten Years, Two Roads

by Jose Miguel Avila
Nov. 5, 2008
Reprinted from Ahora

Unbelievable but true. For 10 years five Cubans have been behind bars in the US for having defended their people from the terrorism plotted and organized in the south of Florida.

How can one understand a government like the US, which preaches fighting terrorism, and continues to hold the Cuban Five in jail?

After the 9-11 attack President Bush said that whoever harbors a terrorist would be considered as such; however today he is giving shelter to a noted criminal, Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind of the mid-air blast of a Cuban airliner off the coasts of Barbados in 1976.

Today the fight for the release of Antonio, Fernando, Gerardo, Rene and Ramon –The Five- continues and has two roads in sight: the Federal District Court of Florida and the U.S Supreme Court.


The Cuban Five’s case in Florida will again be facing Judge Joan Lenard, who must decide on new sentences for Ramon, Fernando and Tony, making a decision on their files after the hearing by the 11th Circuit of Atlanta Court of Appeal.

This time the merciless Lenard, who sentenced the Cuban Five to long and harsh terms in December 2001, won't be allowed such extreme decisions given the verdict by three judges in Atlanta, who stated that the sentences against the three heroes had been excessive and illegal; however, we must not expect too much from someone who knows very well that her post in Florida largely depends on her performance against the Cuban Five.

The world must stay alert, and not just the defense attorneys who will be arguing new sentences within the proper legal framework, but also all those who want justice to be done.

The sentences for supposed crimes that, although they were never proven, were accepted by a prejudiced Miami jury when giving the verdict on the accused men, which was not challenged at that time.

It is patently obvious that Miami is too hostile a place to hold a trial like this. And, it is precisely there where the same judge will have to make a decision again, on behalf of US justice, on three of the Cuban Five, who had already been sentenced by her before. That’s why, one can expect the Cuban American extremists and other anti-Cuban sectors in that prejudiced community to influence the sentences.

Such a complex situation makes the road to freedom very difficult. It forces supporters do whatever they legally can to free them from this politicized case, which the White House has turned an endless process; it is worth saying that the sentence that comes in Miami could also be refuted.


The second road is still on hold because a request to the US Supreme Court must come first for it to issue a command or certiorari order (to be informed). But this has opened another question: Will it be a new trial? It is in fact, according to jurists, a long and complicated procedure quite different from the Cuban legal system.

The Cuban Five’s case is a judicial process that is making history, in which US foreign policy has not only intruded but has been targeted as well, this has rarely happened in a judicial process; this case has collected more than 119 volumes of testimonies, transcriptions and documents considered as valuable for being possible evidence. Alone in the first trial held in Miami, more than 800 documents of around fifty thousand pages were collected.

The trial turned into the longest in US history; it lasted seven months in the Miami Court. Some 74 witnesses showed up, 43 people called by the prosecution and 31 by the defense, among them were several high ranking personalities from the US forces: generals, admirals, advisors on national security and others.

The Cuban Five’s juridical process has had three pronouncements or sentences on appeal, the 11th Circuit of Appeals in Atlanta, in which the extensive and documented sentence (99 pages) was passed unanimously by the three judges of the 11th Circuit in August 9, 2005, that upheld the appeal, thus revoking the verdict of guilty and annulling the sentences dictated by Judge Lenard.

Even the sentence that revoked the previous one, which was achieved by political influence, dictated by the panel of the Circuit Tribunal the following year (2006), when ruling on the appeal presented by the prosecution, a special vote was issued by two of the judges, much more documented than the sentence itself, that insisted on the nullity of the trial held in Miami for the lack of an impartial jury.

In the third of the sentences, issued by the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, two of the three judges came back to vote, which shows that outside Miami only a unanimous sentence in favor of the Five has been achieved, the other two have not been able to reach unanimity and carry with them individual votes against.

The Five’s case, through these two roads, not only tells of the importance it has raised, not just inside the United States, but also in the international arena where some 346 solidarity committees in 109 countries are backing Cuba and the Five.

Committees made up of intellectuals, congress members, students and even leaders from different parts of the world have become a concerted force, thus forcing the US Court to revise a judicial process.

This will be a long and difficult road, but the fight goes on, because we have the truth faced with the injustice committed against The Five. It gives us much strength to carry on to the very end and demand justice.


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