Presentation: The Case of the Cuban Five Political Prisoners

Presentation, Stan Smith, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5     May 3, 2009

Cuba has been victimized by state-sponsored terrorism from the US since it freed itself from foreign domination in 1959.

The killing of innocent civilians has been double that of Sept. 11.

These terrorist attacks include bombing hotels in 1997,

blowing up Cuban civilian airliner in 1976, 73 dead

biological warfare, swine flu, virus 100 dead children

assassination and assassination attempts.

US Terrorism against Cuba in the 1990s

In 1990 Bush released Orlando Bosch from prison. Guilty of 1976 bombing.

Armed attacks, or thwarted armed attacks against Cuba;

1990 – 1

1991- 2

1992 Cuba asks UN to censure US for allowing terrorist attacks against Cuba. Nothing was ever done.

1992- 4

1993-  8

1995 – 6

1996 -9

1997 – 10 bombings or thwarted bombings of tourist locations, killing one Italian tourist.

1998 – Posada Carriles and CANF admit organizing and financing the bombings.

film “638 Ways to kill Fidel Castro”

In addition to the plots listed above, Cuban authorities have learned of 16 other plots to assassinate the President of Cuba, 8 plots to assassinate other leaders of the Revolution

and 140 other terrorist plots hatched between 1990 and 2001.

Despite repeated Cuban complaints to the US government, nothing was ever done to stop it. So Cuba sent a group of men to  observe and report on the terrorist networks operating in Miami.

These men collected information, reported it to Cuba, which later gave much of it to Washington. The men never got any U.S. secrets and were acting as de facto U.S. agents because their reports on terrorist exile groups were handed over to the FBI.

Rather than arrest the terrorists in Miami, the FBI rounded up these Cuban who infiltrated terrorist groups in Miami, put them in solitary confinement for 17 months in order to break them, convicted them in a frame-up trial in Miami and sentenced them from 15 years to life  imprisonment.

In other words, they have been locked away for reporting on domestic terrorist threats.

The Miami Cuban terrorist groups do more than threaten Cuba. They were involved in the Elian Gonzalez case,  were closely involved in the Nicaragua contra war, and with cocaine smuggling. Remember, too,  the Watergate break-in in 1973. There was James McCord and 4 from Miami connected to Cuban exile groups.

Let me go over what is so outrageous about this case.

  1.   After arrest, they had been locked away in solitary confinement for 17 months and longer, in tiny cells with no windows with lights on 24 hours a day. Mind you, 2 of them are American citizens. This was pre-September 11, under a Democratic President.
  1.    Geraldo Hernandez got 2 life sentences for the shoot-down of two  Brothers to the Rescue planes over Cuba in 1996.

These planes had flown over Cuba 25 times in the previous 20 months, and Cuba had sent warnings to high level US government officials that this would not be tolerated anymore. On February 24, 1996 when these planes entered Cuban airspace and refused to turn around, they were shot down, killing 4.

According to law, it is not illegal to shoot down a plane intruding on your airspace, refusing to turn around. In court the prosecution alleged the planes were shot down over international water.

But former US Air Colonel George Buchner, relying on information from the US National Security Agency, testified in court that the planes were clearly in Cuban airspace, 5-6 miles from the Cuban coast. WSJ, March 21, 2001.

What was Geraldo Hernandez’s role in this? He had infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue and was told by Cuba not to fly those days.

Outrageously, in the trial, the jury said that make him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

  1.  A third outrage is that the trial of the Cuban 5 who had infiltrated Miami anti-Cuban terrorist groups took place in Miami. It was impossible to get a fair trial there, not only because of the bias of the jurors, but of the implied threats against them. The judge refused to move the trial 26 miles away to Fort Lauderdale. Given the atmosphere in Miami, less than a year after the Elian Gonzalez riots, a not-guilty ruling was virtually impossible. To guarantee than, all potential jurors who were not hostile to Cuba were excluded. And, the jurors complained that local TV stations filmed them and the license plates of their cars.
  1.  A fourth outrage is that they are called spies and accused of spying.

In fact the 5 did not collect information relating to the national security of the US. They collected information only on private, anti-Cuban terrorist groups.

Don’t take my word for it:

In the trial 2 US Generals, 1 Rear Admiral, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency all testified the five had not committed any espionage.

High-ranking officials of the FBI testified the 5 were not a “threat to American society, had not sought information relevant to US national security, and did not cause any damage to the United States civil or military installations.”

Navy Admiral Eugene Carroll testified that far more detailed information than that gathered by the 5 is widely available in publications such as Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Despite this testimony, they were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage.

  1. Fifth it is an outrage that they convicted not of even of spying but conspiracy to commit espionage and murder. What is conspiracy?

One month before July 26, 1953, when Fidel Castro and others attacked the Moncada barracks, the US government executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Were they convicted of spying? No. Of “conspiracy to commit espionage.”

Conspiracy means you agree with others to commit a crime and take one step in the direction of committing it. That mean you can be guilty of conspiracy without committing any criminal acts. That’s what got the Rosenbergs executed.

Leonard Weinglass, the veteran US civil rights lawyer, said: “This is the first conspiracy to commit espionage trial in our history where not a single page of classified information was involved.”

What is real spying?

Robert Hanssen, the FBI counter-intelligence official, spied for the Soviet Union and Russia for 22 years, and made $1.4 million selling secrets to them.  His information led to the deaths of at least 2 uncover/double agents in Russia.

He even sold to the Soviets the US government plans in case of nuclear war with Russia. Where the President would be hiding, where the government operations would be moved to, and how to target and eliminate them.

He got life without parole.

The Rosenbergs got executed.

What was the “conspiracy to commit espionage” ?

One of the 5 worked as a civilian at a military base in the public viewing area open to the public. He observed the comings and goings of planes to see if there was any changes. Antonio Guerrero shared his information with two other of the Cuban 5.

That is the case.

What was the “conspiracy to commit murder” ?

Geraldo Hernandez got 2 life terms for conspiracy to commit murder because he was told not to fly on February 24, 1996.

  1.  A 6th outrage is that they were given 15 year sentences for not registering as foreign agents. Weinglass stated this is the first time in US history anyone has been sent to jail for that. Typically those caught are expelled from the country.

How could the Cubans collect information on anti-Cuban terrorist groups in Miami if they first registered as agents of the Cuba? That would be their death sentence.

In the 1970s a Cuban diplomat to the United Nations was murdered. The anti-Cuban terrorist was caught and imprisoned. 10 years.

Orlando Bosch was convicted of blowing up a civilian Cuban plane in 1976 killing 73 people. 73 counts of murder. He did not even serve 10 years in prison. He is walking free in Miami.  He was pardoned by President Bush number 1. Miami created an official Orlando Bosch Day.

But these Cubans got 15 years for not registering!

  1.   A greater outrage was that in June 1998 Cuban government officials met with the number 2 man in Democratic President Bill Clinton’s FBI to present him with evidence of terrorist activities in Miami.  The FBI brought this information back to Washington, studied it, and after 3 months, made arrests.

Who did they arrest? Not one terrorist, but these five Cubans who collected the information.

They then framed up these 5 and sent them to prison.

Obviously the highest levels of Clinton’s government made the decision to frame up these men.

  1.   There is even a greater outrage occurs today about the case of the Cuban 5. The media knows all about this frame-up and won’t say a word.

US media has publicized a lot of dishonest material  about Cuban dissidents being executed and sent to prison. These dissidents were paid US agents in Cuba being jailed for actions that violated specific laws, the same laws the US has, none of which they denied.

But of the case of those 5 in this country framed-up for exposing terrorist plots, the US media is basically silent.

I should point out that 2 of the Cuban 5 were born here. So they are native-born American citizens like me. Rene Gonzalez was born in Chicago, Antonio Guerrero was born in Miami.

The Cuban 5 remain in prison because the government and media have sought to black out the case. There is nothing in the press about this case, and so the majority of the American people are unaware of how outrageous the government frame-up is.

This deliberate media blackout plays a crucial role in what will happen at the appeals in this case. It will be much easier to deny them a right to a retrial if the public is aware of the case.

There were an unprecedented number of amicus briefs – unprecedented in the entire history of the US Supreme Court. This is the largest number of amicus briefs ever to have urged Supreme Court to review a criminal conviction. This means letters of support for the appeal of the Cuban 5 to the Supreme Court.

Some of those who sent amicus briefs to the Supreme Court:

the Senate of the Mexican government

the National Assembly of Panama,

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Belgium Bar Association

Indian Association of Lawyers

National Jury Project;

National Lawyers Guild and National Conference of Black Lawyers;

Mexican American Political Association;

Center for International Policy and Council on Hemispheric Affairs;

10 Nobel Prize winners, Rigoberta Menchu, Harold Pinter,Wole Soyinka, from Nigeria who won the prize in literature, Nadine Gordimer, Gunther Grass

hundreds of parliamentarians around the world,

including two former Presidents (of East Timor and Ireland)

and three current Vice Presidents of the European Parliament,

as well as numerous US and foreign bar associations and human rights organizations.

former  U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson (also the former president of Ireland )

Latin-American Council of Churches

International Association of Democratic Lawyers,

the American Association of Jurists

Latin American Parliament

On the other hand, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court not to take up the case and to uphold the convictions of the Cuban 5. That the Supreme Court did.

On Feb. 6  Amy Goodman on Democracy Now noted that the trial of the Cuban 5 is the only trial in US history condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Jose Pertierra wrote about the case in Counterpunch, March 28-29, this year.

The National Law Journal featured the case in its March 20 edition.

The brother of the Italian man killed by a bomb planted in a Havana  by a Miami Cuban terrorist, sent an open letter to various legal organizations on March 24 to Attorney General Eric Holder. He asks for prosecution of the terrorist Posada Carriles, living in Miami, who was responsible for the murder of his brother.
On March 26, a month ago, Amnesty International came out with a statement protesting the US government’s denial of visas to two of the wives of the Cuban 5. They have not seen their husbands since they were arrested 10 and a half years ago. The US government has repeated denied them visas to enter the US on the grounds they are threats to national security, but provides no evidence.

After the campaign to submit briefs to the Supreme Court to review the case, has begun the campaign to get the US government to give visas to the 2 wives of the Cuban 5.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D’ Escoto,

Nobel Peace Prize laureates Rigoberta Menchu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel;

Noam Chomsky

the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina.

ILWU local 10

Detroit City Council

San Francisco Labor Council

SEIU President Andrew Stern.

Alice Walker,

Howard Zinn,

former French president Mitterand’s wife,

Danny Glover

National Council of Churches

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