The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are in U.S. prison, serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively, after being wrongly convicted in U.S. federal court in Miami, on June 8, 2001.
They are Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez.
The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.
But the Five pointed out vigorously in their defense that they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on their country of Cuba.
The Five’s actions were never directed at the U.S.government. They never harmed anyone nor ever possessed nor used any weapons while in the United States.
The Cuban Five’s mission was to stop terrorism
For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalization of relations between, thg U.S. and Cuba. More than 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of these terrorists’ attacks.
Terrorist Miami groups like Commandos F4 and Brothers to the Rescue operate with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba— with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.
Therefore, Cuba made the careful and necessary decision to send the Five Cubans to Miami to monitor the terrorists. The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attacks.
The aim of such a clandestine operation by the Cuban Five—at great personal risk—was to prevent criminal acts, and thus protect the lives of Cubans and other people. <
But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five ANTI- terrorists on September 12, 1998. The Five were illegally held in solidarity confinement for 17 months in Miami jail.
The trial began in November 2000. With the seven-month trial based in Miami, a virtual witchhunt atmosphere existed. Defense attorney’s motions for a change of venue were denied five times by the judge, although it was obvious that a fair trial was impossible in that city.
In a blow to justice, the Cuban Five were convicted June 8, 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December, 2001.
A victory in appeals, then a surprise several
On August 9, 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Cuban Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial outside of Miami.
However, in an unexpected reversal on Oct. 31, the 11th Circuit Court vacated the three-judge panel’s ruling and granted an “en banc” hearing before the full panel of 12 judges. Exactly one year after the victory that granted the Five a new trial, the panel voted 10 to 2 to deny the Five heroes a new trial, and instead affirmed the trial court.
Nine remaining issues of appeal are before the three-judge panel (it is actually two judges now, one has retired), and as of December 2006, final supplemental documents were submitted by defense and prosecution. For an explanation of the legal issues, read the Nov. 21 interview with Leonard Weinglass here.
Solidarity and support is more important than ever
This case is a political case and the Cuban Five are political prisoners.
Their freedom will depend not only on the arduous work of the defense team but just as importantly on the public support that can be organized. Over 250 committees have been established in the United States and around the world, demanding immediate freedom for Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando and Rene.
Important declarations have been made by hundreds of parliamentarians in Britain, Italy, and the European and Latin American Parliaments. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, with five judges, ruled that there were irregularities in the Five’s trial and arrest, effectively denying them a fair trial and calls on the U.S. government to remedy this injustice.
In the United States, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is working very hard to build broad support for these anti-terrorist heroes, with forums and video showings, media and publicity work, and a march that was held on Sept. 23, 2006 in front of the White House.
“Ours may be one of the most ridiculous accusations of espionage in the history of this country.” Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo was born in Havana
On June 4, 1965. In 1989 he graduated with a degree in International Political Relations. While in school he participated in amateur festivals as part of a theatre group and also as a cartoonist-humorist. In 1989 Hernandez served as part of the Cuban forces in Angola against the invading South African apartheid regime. He distinguished himself in 54 combat missions and was awarded a medal of honour. Hernandez has had his drawings published since 1982 and displayed in gallery exhibitions. His book of caricatures and humour, “You Can Achieve Everything with Love and Humor” was published in 2002. He has been married since 1988 to Adriana Perez O’Connor. She has been denied entry to the United States by U.S. authorities seven times and has not been able to see her husband in more than eight years. Hernandez is sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years and is in U.S.P. Victorville, California.
“…My beloved brothers and I must be unjustly kept in prison, but there we shall not cease from defending the cause and the principles we have embraced.” Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez was born in the city of Miami on October 16,1958. His parents were both from Cuba and immediately after the initiation of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, they returned to Cuba. In 1983 Guerrero graduated as airfield construction engineer in Kiev, Ukraine. The expansion of the Santiago de Cuba International Airport was the most important work in which he was involved. Guerrero is a poet and has penned a considerable number of poems, a selection of which has been published in English and Spanish under the title “Desde Mi Altura” (From My Altitude). Guerrero has become an accomplished artist and his art and poetry can be viewed on this website. He has two sons, 20-years-old Antonio, and 15-years-old Gabriel. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 10 years, and is in U.S.P. Florence, Colorado.
“If preventing the deaths of innocent human beings… and preventing a senseless invasion of Cuba is the reason I am being sentenced today, then let that sentence be welcomed.” Ramon Labanino Salazar was born in Havana on June 9,1963. Even in primary school he distinguished himself, with responsibility supervising younger students. He graduated from high school in Marianao, Havana, where he earned various distinctions including diplomas as an outstanding and advanced student. In 1986, Labanino graduated as an economist from the University of Havana, graduating with first class honours. At the university, he was very active in all sport activities and participated in the All- Caribbean games. In June 1990 Labanino married Elizabeth Palmeiro Casado, and has two daughters with her, 14-year-old Laura, and 9-year-old Lisbet. He also has another daughter, Aili, 18, from a previous marriage. Labanino is sentenced to life plus 18 years. He is in U.S.P. Beaumont, Texas.
“… / simply want to reiterate that at no time did I endanger the national security of the United States, nor was this ever my intent, or that of my comrades” Fernando Gonzalez Llort was born in Havana on August 18,1963. In 1981 he graduated with high honours from high school in the Island of Youth. In 1987 he graduated magma cum laude with a degree in International Political Relations under the Ministry of Superior Education and received a Gold Diploma. While in school, Gonzalez had various leadership roles in the Federation of University Students (FEU). He participated in the promotion of cultural events and in theatre festivals. From 1987 to 1989, Gonzalez served as part of the internationalist Cuban brigade that fought to preserve Angola’s independence against the invading South African apartheid regime. He was awarded a medal of honour of bravery. Gonzalez is married to Rosa Aurora Freijanes Coca. He is sentenced to 19 years and is in F.C.I. Oxford, Wisconsin.
“Our trial was converted into a propaganda campaign by the prosecutors, stirring up prejudices against Cuba among the jurors, to achieve a conviction” Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert was born in Chicago, on August 13, 1956. He grew up in a working-class family that immigrated from Cuba to the U.S. In 1961 his parents returned to Cuba with their two sons. From 1977 to 1979, Gonzalez served in Angola and was decorated for bravery. From 1979 to 1982 he studied aviation and graduated as a pilot and flight instructor. He married Olga Salanueva Arango. They have two daughters, 22-year-old Irma, and eight-year-old Ivette. In 1998, a few months before his arrest, Ivette was born. Rene’s wife Olga has been banned entry to the U.S. by U.S. authorities. Thus she and Ivette are cruelly denied the right to see him. He is writing a book on the irregularities and violations that the Cuban Five were subjected to the trial. Gonzalez is sentenced to 15 years and is in F.C.I. Marianna, Florida.