On Sept. 12, five Cuban nationals completed their seventh year in U.S. jails. Their “crime”: trying to foil terrorist attacks on Cuba emanating from right-wing groups in Miami.

Supporters of the five — Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Ramon Labiñino, Fernando González and René González — took heart in June on learning that the UN Human Rights Commission had categorized their imprisonment as “arbitrary.” They became downright optimistic Aug. 9 when a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out the convictions altogether.

But on Sept. 28, the federal prosecutor requested another ruling by the appeals court, this time by all 12 judges who sit on it. At the time, René González reassured his sister Maria by telephone: “We will return to the homeland. Rest easy, my sister.”

Elizabeth Palmeiro, Ramon’s wife, declared in a radio interview Sept. 12, “I’m feeling strong because seven years have passed. We are coming towards the end of this battle.” She added, “I thought that my family would be destroyed because the girls need Ramon and I need him too. I rediscovered him.”

“It was an act of love from them when they simply went away from home to fulfill these missions,” she said, “and love is what is keeping us together.”

The steadfastness of the five has been matched by their families’ support and the support of the Cuban people and government.

National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, in his video-message to the Millions More March in Washington Oct. 15, said, “In your country there are five brothers of mine, five Cubans who are examples of solidarity and international feelings. They also fought for the African peoples, they fought in Angola against apartheid and they were in the U.S. fighting the terrorist groups that operate from there against my country.”

On Oct. 21 he spoke at an international symposium on the Cuban Five held in Holguin, Cuba. The appeals court decision, Alarcon said, is a declaration “that the accusations and sentences imposed upon them had no value. What does that mean in juridical terms? That they are innocent. … An innocent person cannot continue completing a sentence that has been invalidated.”

Five days later in Havana, at a symposium on the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti, Alarcon said the five have been “kidnapped.” He told the meeting, which was attended by 300 people from 24 nations, that the U.S. treatment of the five infringes upon Cuban sovereignty and independence, the cause for which Jose Marti gave his life more than a century ago.

Miami-based journalist and activist Andres Gomez, writing in early October, predicted the appeals court would reject the prosecution’s request for a repeat hearing by the full court. Nevertheless, on Oct. 31 that court did decide to once again hear and rule upon the defense team’s appeal of the Miami verdict. Gomez notes that both sides will be presenting written and oral briefs, this time to the larger panel. He predicts that the process will be long. The last appeal took 28 months before the Atlanta court reached its decision Aug. 9.

Interviewed two months ago in Venezuela, Leonard Weinglass, appeals attorney for Antonio Guerrero, said that international solidarity contributed mightily to the appeals court decision. That movement shows no sign of waning. A open letter from six Nobel Prize winners and others demanding freedom for the prisoners has been signed by thousands and sent to the U.S. attorney general.

Groups that have recently signed the letter or sent one of their own hail from Brazil, Portugal, Peru, Ireland, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Chile, Switzerland, France, Costa Rica and the United States. And the list keeps growing. Earlier this year, the Cuban News Agency AIN reported there were 235 committees in 79 countries organized in support of freedom for the Cuban Five.

For more information, visit www.freethefive.org.