News Analysis

Geoff Bottoms of the UK’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign heads up the fight for the Cuban Five in that country. Commenting on the Aug. 9 decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that awarded René González, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and Gerardo Hernández a new trial, Bottoms said, “We campaign for their freedom in the light of this ruling … knowing that we are pushing at an open door.”

“We need to put pressure on the U.S. government to drop the whole thing,” he said. “We should support the defense lawyers in their attempt to get the men free on bail pending any retrial.” Bottoms said supporters of the five in the UK are circulating petitions calling for the men’s release and for immediate visiting rights for their spouses.

“Letters or cards to the men congratulating them on this victory would also demonstrate to the prison authorities the strength of feeling worldwide,” he said.

The Appeals Court decision is likely to stand and a new trial will probably take place next year, observers say, assuming the five are not freed before then.

Interviewed by Radio Havana Aug. 10, lawyer Paul McKenna said, “The greatest moment that I ever had was yesterday when I was able to call Gerardo Hernández and get him on the phone and tell him that we had won the appeal. … The first question he asked me was: ‘What about the others?’ He was very emotional. I have known him a long time and he never gets emotional.”

Speaking Aug. 10 on the radio program “Democracy Now,” Leonard Weinglass, the appeals attorney for Antonio Guerrero, said, “It is a landmark historic document. … It will be cited by lawyers from here on in, in all the [upcoming] terror trials. It will be used by law schools as a study vehicle. This is an amazing opinion, which analyzes the dynamic of prejudice that an accused faces in a courtroom in the United States.”

Weinglass was referring to the court’s comments about the inability of the five to get a fair, unprejudiced trial in Miami.

Supporters of the five say the language of the court’s decision lends itself to building an even broader, more diverse and unified movement for their freedom — particularly its emphasis on the need to safeguard constitutional rights.

Increasing public awareness of contradictions that are part of the U.S. “war on terrorism” also works in the prisoners’ favor. Interviewed by telephone at his home in Warren, Maine, Cuba solidarity activist Steve Burke called for press releases, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor and to public officials, petitions and signs at demonstrations that above all else portray the Cuban Five as consistent anti-terrorists, men who were committed to blocking acts of anti-Cuba violence emanating from southern Florida.

Wide publicity given to the Bush administration’s dilemma over Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro exile accused of bombing a Cuban airliner and engaging in other acts of terror, and whose extradition is being sought by Venezuela, will likely heighten public awareness that Cuba has well-grounded fears about U.S.-backed terrorism directed against it.

That extremist forces in Miami have indeed strayed from the U.S. mainstream is apparent from the conclusion of the 93-page decision. As if reaching out to wayward children, the judges take pains to appeal to the better instincts of ruling elements there. They ask that “any disappointment with our judgment in this case [in Miami] be tempered and balanced by the recognition that we are a nation of laws in which every defendant, no matter how unpopular, must be treated fairly.”