Fight for the Cuban Five goes on

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The dust has settled following the announcement June 15 that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to review the case of the imprisoned Cuban Five. A storm of outrage exploded, followed by expressions of international solidarity. The question looms as to what remains for Gerardo, René, Tony, Ramón and Fernando.

Their legal fight does continue. Interviewed by Radio Havana on July 12, lawyers for the Five identified as their first priority the resentencing of Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino set for October 13 in the Miami court of Judge Joan Lenard, who presided over their original trial.

The lawyers are counting on the application of new sentencing rules imposed by the appeals court to remove life sentences for Labañino and Guerrero. Lawyer Thomas Goldstein hoped “the judge will take into account the horrible effect that the long terms of imprisonment have had on the Five and their families,” as well as pressure from the international community. The two prisoners could be moved to less harsh prisons.

Fernando González’ sentence of 19 years will be reduced to 15 years, predicted attorney Leonard Weinglass. Because Rene González’ 15-year sentence will end in October 2011, legal efforts on his behalf are at a standstill.

Gerardo Hernández’ conviction for conspiracy to commit murder accounts for one of his life sentences. Its removal would leave Hernández with one other, for conspiring to commit espionage. His situation would then be similar to that of Guerrero and Labañino.

Hernández will enter a “post-conviction judicial process” called into play after direct appeals, which for the Five are over. Goldstein indicated that “new evidence that the court never considered” will be presented demonstrating “the absurdity of the conviction of Gerardo for conspiracy to commit murder.”

Additionally, lawyers for the Five are looking toward a political strategy. Goldstein expressed hope that “relations between the two governments can improve and that the case of the Five can be a part of that; that there can be a new beginning of sorts.” He added, “Lawyers can help,” but it’s a “question of diplomacy rather than what happens in a court.”

Diplomacy, however, may be taking on a new twist. Speaking in June at the opening of an exhibition of prisoner Antonio Guerrero’s art in Washington, Venezuela’s U.S. lawyer José Pertierra warned, “No normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is possible as long as the Five remain unjustly incarcerated and the terrorists live in freedom.”

That theme was sounded by Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón. Commenting on the Supreme Court’s refusal to accept the case, Alarcon declared, “As long as this injustice continues, it will be a formidable obstacle, insurmountable, for having normal relations between the two countries.”

In fact, Pertierra said, “The case is now squarely in the hands of the President of the United States.” Cuban leaders some months ago offered the possibility of an exchange of the Cuban Five for prisoners jailed in Cuba who took U.S. money and worked to undermine the Cuban government. Washington has not responded.

Beyond legal and political strategizing, the truth does remain. At his trial almost 10 years ago Antonio Guerrero pointed out that, “my little country has been attacked, assaulted, and slandered, decade after decade.” Crimes were “hatched and financed” in the United States.

“Thanks to Tony and his team in Miami,” José Pertierra explained, “Cuba was able to provide the FBI with the names, addresses, telephone numbers, even the license plate numbers of the terrorists.” The U.S. government “protects the criminals, allowing them to continue their reign of terror against Cuba.”

“Life is only life if there is courage,” says a Guerrero poem. “Let us find the courage to take up the mantle of the struggle to free the Five from the ‘monstrous injustice’ of their imprisonment,” urged Pertierra.

“President Obama, the Cold War is over,” he declared. “For the sake of the victims of terrorism, for the sake of the suffering caused by almost 50 years of an illegal and immoral blockade, for the sake of your country … heal the wounds: end the blockade against Cuba, extradite Posada, and free the Five.”