Meeting in Australia defends Cuban Five
by Bob Aiken and Joanne Kuniansky
Nov. 15, 2008
Reprinted from The Militant
SYDNEY, Australia—“This is a political trial,” María Eugenia Guerrero told a public meeting of 125 people here October 17. She was talking about the frame-up of five working-class fighters in the United States who have been kept in jail “because they are Cubans.”
The Cuban Five, as they are known, are paying the price for “defending the peace and sovereignty of their country,” she said. Guerrero—sister of Antonio Guerrero, one of the five prisoners—was the featured speaker at the event organized by the Free the Cuban Five Committee here.
The Cuban Five—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, René González, and Antonio Guerrero—have been imprisoned for 10 years on charges including “conspiracy to commit espionage” and in one case, “conspiracy to commit murder.” When arrested, they were monitoring the activities of right-wing, Florida-based, Cuban exile organizations backed by Washington that have carried out terrorist actions against Cuba.
“We need a jury of millions” to win their release, Guerrero declared, quoting a message that Gerardo Hernández sent to supporters on the 10th anniversary of their incarceration. She appealed for “thousands of letters” from around the world directed to authorities in the United States to win justice for the five.
Guerrero’s two-week visit to Australia included stops in Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. She explained that family members of the five are traveling around the world to campaign for their freedom.
Veteran Aboriginal rights campaigner Pat Eatock opened the meeting with a traditional “welcome to country.” She told of the long history of cop brutalization of indigenous people in Australia, pointing to the case of Lex Wotton, an Aboriginal leader from north Queensland. Wotton faces prison over charges of “rioting,” stemming from protests in Palm Island four years ago against the police killing of an Aboriginal man, Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Meredith Burgmann, former Labor Party president of the New South Wales (NSW) legislative council, introduced Guerrero. Burgmann described Washington’s refusal to issue visas to the wives of two of the five as “an absolute abrogation of human rights.”
The meeting featured a broad panel of prominent supporters of the Cuban Five. Among them were Paul Lynch, NSW Labor minister for aging, disability services, and Aboriginal affairs; NSW Greens parliamentarian John Kaye; Andrew Ferguson, NSW state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union; Paul McAleer, assistant secretary, Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia; Osama Yousif of the Sudanese Communist Party; and Gil Boehringer, a retired public law lecturer at Macquarie University.
Supporters of the Cuban Five here are preparing for a tour next February by Leonard Weinglass, a prominent U.S. civil liberties lawyer involved in the defense of the five.