[Ppnews] 'Cuban Five' file appeal with Supreme Court

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 30 17:16:05 EST 2009

'Cuban Five' file appeal with Supreme Court

By Bill Mears
CNN Supreme Court Producer
com/2009/ CRIME/01/ 30/scotus. cuban.five/ index.html? iref=newssearch

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Five Cubans convicted in 2001 of spying for the 
Castro regime have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a new trial 
in a politically charged case that has attracted international attention.

Lawyers for the men, known as the "Cuban Five," filed a petition 
Friday, saying their trial in Miami was unfairly prejudiced by the 
larger community.

"The pervasive and violent anti-Castro struggle of the Miami 
community would not only infect the jury with hostility but would 
cause jurors to fear for their (and their families') safety, 
livelihoods, and community standing if they acquitted," it said.

The petition asks the justices to throw out the verdicts and order a 
new trial for the five. Cuban leader Raul Castro has offered to 
exchange about 200 prisoners, believed by the United States to be 
political prisoners, for the five men.

There was no initial reaction to the court filing from the U.S. 
attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida. The 
government is expected to oppose the request for the high court to 
take up the matter.

A decision from the justices is expected this spring. If the case 
were added to the docket, oral arguments would be held in the fall.

In 2001, a Miami jury convicted Ruben Campa, also known as Fernando 
Gonzalez; Rene Gonzalez; Gerardo Hernandez; Luis Medina (also known 
as Ramon Labanino) and Antonio Guerrero, members of what was called 
the Wasp Network, on charges they had spied on prominent 
Cuban-American exile leaders and U.S. military bases. They were 
arrested in September 1998.

Group leader Gerardo Hernandez also was convicted of conspiracy to 
commit murder for engineering the shoot-down in 1996 of two planes 
flown by the group Brothers to the Rescue.

Cuban fighter jets downed the unarmed Cessnas as they flew toward the 
island, where they had previously dropped anti-government leaflets. 
Four men died.

During the trial, the defendants claimed they had spied as a way to 
defend Cuba from hard-line anti-Castro groups in Miami they feared 
would attack the island. All five are serving time in federal prisons.

The case has been widely followed in Cuba, where the men were 
regarded as heroes and whose communist leader, Fidel Castro, 
regularly advocated their release.

A federal appeals court had originally thrown out the convictions, 
but later reinstated them.

Attorney Thomas Goldstein, representing the five, said lower courts 
unfairly refused to move the trial from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, 30 
miles to the north. "The defendants were very concerned about the 
prevalent anti-Castro hostility, and the tremendous press coverage," 
he said, "The [federal] appeals court has made it virtually 
impossible to get a change of venue, even in this kind of case."

The appeal also claimed prosecutors unfairly excused seven potential 
African-Americans from the pool of potential jurors. The final jury 
included three black members but no Cuban-Americans.

The Cuban Five trial was the only judicial proceeding in U.S. history 
condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Eight Nobel Prize 
winners have also petitioned the U.S. attorney general, calling for 
freedom for the five.

The case is Campa et al. v. U.S.

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