A federal judge in Miami has reduced the jail time of two more of a group of five Cubans who were given draconian sentences in a controversial and highly politicized 2001 trial.
In Miami on December 8, U.S. district Judge Joan Lenard reduced Fernando González’s 19 year sentence to 17 years, nine months and Ramón Labañino’s life term plus 18 years to 30 years. In 2001, she had sentenced these two men and three others collectively to four life terms plus 75 years.
The Cubans had arrived in Florida in the 1990s to monitor Cuban-Americans’ preparations for terrorist attacks against the Cuban people, and report to their government. An international campaign has been mounted to gain their freedom.
Each man entered the court room with his “head up, fist raised, and a smile of encouragement to supporters,” according to a Cuban reporter on hand. “This is an important day, a victorious day,” said Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon/ “This must serve as an additional argument, not only to continue the fight but to intensify it,” “It’s now Obama’s turn,” he emphasized, highlighting the campaign to pressure the U.S. president to release them by executive order
Two months earlier, Judge Lenard cut the life sentence of another of the five, Antonio Guerrero, to 21 years, ten months. On that occasion, a prosecutor, mindful of “international noise” emanating from the solidarity movement for the Five, conceded, “It is necessary to improve the image of U.S. justice.”
A year ago, a federal appeals court ordered all three men resentenced because of Judge Lenard’s flawed penalties. Gerardo Hernandez’ sentence of two life terms plus 15 years and Rene Gonzalez’ 15-year term were left untouched.
In a statement, Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, and Labañino underscored the prosecutors’ admission that the Five had not harmed U.S. national security. They proudly recounted their refusal to collaborate with prosecutors for the sake of reduced sentences. They insisted that Gerardo’s fate “remains the principal injustice in our case” and echoed Alarcon’s call for the U.S. president to release the Five on his own.
The legal effort to secure resentencing for Gerardo Hernandez remains a priority.
Hernandez is serving one life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder and another for conspiracy to commit espionage, the same charge imposed upon Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. The murder conviction was based on flimsy circumstantial evidence of Gerardo having told the others not to go out on a “Brothers to the Rescue” flight on the day that two of the Brothers planes were shot down by a Cuban air patrol after buzzing Havana.
The political campaign to secure Adriana Pérez’ and Olga Salanueva’s right to visit husbands Gerardo and René in jail, denied so far by the State Department, continues.
An “International Colloquium” held in Holguin, Cuba last month issued an “Action Plan” on the Five. Key points included: “widen working spaces,” work with parliamentarians and trade unions, expand the use of information technology, recognize cultural and intellectual achievements of the Five, and lastly, enhance solidarity. This last refers particularly to encouraging opponents of the U.S. anti- Cuban blockade to take up the cause of the Five.
Delegates united on pressuring President Obama He “has the legal and constitutional power to put an end to this injustice,” according to their final document.
Judge Lenard, resentencing Labinino and Fernando Gonzalez, observed that “It is important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country.” Presumably she was referring to spying.
In fact, U.S. tolerance of “such activities” serves as a marker for persecution of the Cuban Five, especially in regard to their sentencing. Iraqi citizen Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi, for example, monitored Iraqis in the United States for Saddam Hussein. His sentence: 3 years and 10 months. Leonardo Aragoncillo was found with 736 secret U.S. documents intended for the Philippine government. His sentence: ten years. Jihadist José Padilla, charged with conspiracy to commit murder – as was Gerardo Hernandez – was sentenced to 17 years, four months. Former State Department official Donald Keyser, guilty of unauthorized possession of secret documents and contacts with Taiwanese intelligence, spent one year in jail. For passing information on U.S. Iran policy to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Lawrence Franklin suffered 10 months of house arrest.
Reports in the corporate media almost uniformly refer to all five prisoners having been charged with “spying.” Yet three of the prisoners were charged with “conspiracy to commit espionage,” not espionage. The two others were charged with neither spying nor conspiracy to spy.