[Ppnews] U.S. gov’t paid media in frame-up of Cuban Five

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Oct 9 20:47:59 EDT 2010

The Militant (logo)

Vol. 74/No. 39      October 18, 2010

U.S. gov’t paid media in
frame-up of Cuban Five
Interview with lawyer on plans for defense effort
(feature article)

Below are major excerpts of an interview with 
Leonard Weinglass, one of the attorneys on the 
legal defense team of the Cuban Five. The 
September 15 phone interview was conducted for 
the English-language broadcast of Radio Havana 
Cuba by Bernie Dwyer, an Irish journalist and filmmaker.

The Cuban Five­Gerardo Hernández, Antonio 
Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and 
René González­were arrested by the U.S. 
government in 1998 while living in the United 
States monitoring the activities of 
counterrevolutionary groups in Miami that have a 
long history of armed assaults and sabotage against Cuba.

The five were convicted on trumped-up charges 
ranging from failure to register as foreign 
agents to “conspiracy to commit espionage.” In 
addition, Hernández was falsely convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder.”

The five were refused a change in trial venue 
from Miami, the center of counterrevolutionary 
Cuban-American groups, where an atmosphere of 
prejudice and intimidation ensured the most biased trial possible.

Hernández received a double life sentence plus 15 
years. The U.S. government claimed he was 
complicit in the deaths of the crews of two 
planes flown by Brothers to the Rescue, one of 
the right-wing groups the five had been 
monitoring. The plane was shot down by the Cuban 
air force on Feb. 24, 1996, after Brothers to the 
Rescue had repeatedly and provocatively violated 
Cuban airspace, despite numerous warnings from Havana.

Under growing international pressure, a federal 
appeals court ruled in June 2008 that the 
sentences for three of the five were excessive. 
Labañino’s life sentence plus 18 years was 
reduced to 30 years. Fernando González’s sentence 
of 19 years was reduced to 17 years and 9 months. 
Guerrero’s life plus 10 years sentence was 
reduced to 21 years and 10 months. The court 
refused to reduce Hernández’s sentence or the 
15-year sentence given to René González.


Leonard Weinglass: The five should have been 
returned to Cuba shortly after their arrest, as 
is the custom when foreigners are arrested in the 
United States on missions for their home 
countries and their activities here caused no harm.

There are numerous examples, most recently the 
Russian agents who were sent home this year after 
being held in custody for less than 30 days. 
Instead they [the Cuban Five] were subjected to 
cruel conditions of confinement, unjustly 
prosecuted in a venue that could not afford them 
a fair trial, victimized by the misconduct of 
their prosecutors, and excessively and illegally 
punished with life sentences

Following the Supreme Court’s rejection of their 
appeal in 2009­despite an unprecedented 
outpouring of support, including 10 Nobel prize 
winners, the bar associations of many countries, 
the entire Mexican Senate, two former presidents 
of the European Union­we are now, in 2010, filing 
what is called the collateral attack or habeas 
corpus review for Gerardo on his conviction.

We filed on June 14, 2010, and will be filing a 
Memorandum of Law on October 11. The government 
will be given 60 days to respond and then 
presumably at the end of this year or in early 
2011, we will have a hearing on Gerardo’s claims 
in Miami. If we lose there we go to the 11th 
Circuit Court on appeal. And if we lose there, we 
then, once again will ask the Supreme Court to 
review the case. So we still have legal avenues to pursue.

Bernie Dwyer: Could you give more detail on what 
is the basis of the ongoing legal process on behalf of Gerardo Hernández?

Weinglass: There are essentially three claims 
that we are making. One is that the United States 
government engaged in misconduct by paying a 
certain number of high-profile reporters in Miami 
to write articles of a propagandist nature 
against the government of Cuba for Radio and TV 
Martí, and at the same time these reporters 
during the day were also writing articles and 
speaking about the five in the local media. Those 
articles and commentary were amongst the most 
prejudicial and inflamed the hostility of that community.

The government, which has a legal obligation to 
assure all accused a fair trial in a fair venue, 
was actually paying reporters who were reporting 
the most scurrilous material that prejudiced the 
case. To anyone’s knowledge this has never 
happened before. That, we argue, is a violation 
of due process and we are asking the court to 
overturn the conviction and to once again either 
free Gerardo or remove his case to another venue to receive a fair trial.

There is even a strong argument that, if what 
happened is demonstrated, Gerardo cannot be 
retried, but must be freed outright since he was 
wrongly put in jeopardy through government wrongdoing the first time.

The second claim is rather technical. The 
government has a strict obligation to turn over 
anything in its records that could have helped 
Gerardo defend his case. This it did not do. 
Instead, they withheld evidence that would have 
demonstrated his innocence. They also withheld, 
and we are making this claim, satellite imagery 
which would have shown that the shoot down on 
February 24, 1996, occurred in Cuban airspace and 
not in international airspace. The key agency of 
the United States government that maintains 
satellite data has, up to now, refused to admit 
or deny that they are holding such data.

Lastly we are claiming that there was a 
misperception on the part of Gerardo’s attorney 
about the principles of international law that 
should have governed the case and a failure to 
take effective measures to assure Gerardo a fair 
trial. This was the first case in history where 
an individual residing at the time in the United 
States was charged with a so-called conspiracy 
with pilots of another country’s air force who 
were doing their duty in defending their 
country’s airspace. Such a prosecution was 
outside the realm of anything any trial lawyer in the U.S. had ever faced.

There should have been a complete and thorough 
examination of the principles of international 
law, which could have afforded Gerardo a 
clear-cut defense to the charge of conspiracy to 
commit murder. We are now providing the Court 
with a 15-page declaration by an eminent 
international law professor who explains in 
detail precisely how the court and the defense 
should have approached this unprecedented case. 
Even beyond that, as Judge Kravitch found, the 
government’s case failed to establish that 
Gerardo had anything to do with what occurred on 
that day; and under any scenario, he should have been found not guilty.

Dwyer: Let’s now move to the cases of the other 
four and where they stand legally. Could we begin 
with Antonio, who was serving a life sentence plus 15 years?

Weinglass: Antonio is serving a 21-year sentence 
which means that he should be free to return home 
in approximately seven years and maybe even 
sooner. However, Antonio was also the victim, as 
was Gerardo, of the fact that the government 
committed misconduct by paying reporters who were 
writing the most prejudicial articles against all of the five.

So Antonio has the same claims on that issue as 
Gerardo and so have Ramón and Fernando. Antonio 
will be filing his habeas papers in the first 
week of November, making the same arguments as 
well as the arguments on the wrongful withholding 
of information. I assume that Ramón and Fernando will do the same.

René is so close to being released in 2011 that 
it remains to be seen whether he will even have to file.

Dwyer: What would be the result if this process 
is successful? Could they be freed?

Weinglass: Unfortunately, it will go to a trial 
judge in Miami­the same judge who sat on the 
original case. However, the interesting aspect is 
it might be that, if it is found that the U.S. 
government committed misconduct by paying these 
reporters, the five could not be tried again 
because under the doctrine of what’s called 
double jeopardy, their rights were wrongfully 
violated by the government in the first instance. 
Since the government put them in jeopardy the 
government cannot come back now and seek a second 
trial. That’s an issue we will be arguing and I 
personally feel that we will be successful, 
assuming a finding of government misconduct.

Dwyer: And all these cases are going to take 
place in the courts in Miami toward the end of this year?

Weinglass: Yes, it will either be toward the end 
of this year or possibly over into next year, 
2011. And it will take place in Miami initially 
and if we lose there, then we will return to 
Atlanta before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, 
where we have the right of appeal.

Dwyer: Do you think that the campaigns that are 
being run worldwide for the release of the five are having any effect?

Weinglass: Absolutely, it should be continued and if anything increased

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