Richard Klugh is an appeals process expert with the Public Defender’s Office in Miami. A graduate of Harvard University, he has more than 25 years of experience as a jurist which has led him to determine that this case (of the Cuban Five) is very different.

He belongs to the defense team of the five Cubans arrested in Miami on September 12, 1998, who, after a bizarre trial, had charges attributed to them that carried combined sentences of four life and 75 years of imprisonment.

Klugh is very careful in the manner in which he expresses himself, as if when he speaks each word must find its rightful slot – no more, no less. Those who have dealt with him affirm that he is a true professional, a man who is proficient.

‘He is someone who exudes great peace,’ says Rosa Aurora Freijanes, the wife of defendant Fernando González.

Richard Klugh consented to speak with Juventud Rebelde by phone in relation to the disposition of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which by a simple majority vote has agreed to hear an appeal by the U.S. Attorney representing the government of the United States to reconsider a ruling rendered by a panel of three judges on August 9.

Q: You are a man of law. What is your opinion of the August 9 verdict?

‘I believe it was a magnificent decision. The opinion by the three judges takes on international legitimacy.

‘It was an act of courage. It was what was expected from people of honor, from people who don’t avoid the truth of a situation, even though the ruling was unpopular in the Cuban-American community in Miami.
‘This interests me a lot, because it is part of the set of values that we should expect from the judges in this new phase, but it is the obligation of the lawyers to now find a way to take these values to the full court and use them well in the application of the law.

‘In the period that is approaching we will direct our arguments in that sense, so that the judges’ decision will also honor justice. For that reason we continue with our work of making the truth even clearer in this case.

‘The work of the three judge panel was major and the important thing is that they took their time to make their ruling. They read the arguments in their entirety and were able to see the reality in every aspect of the case.

‘They analyzed the selection of the jury, the media… and they realized that everything pointed in the same direction: that one cannot have a fair trial in Miami for people like the Five Heroes.

‘After this 93-page decision, if they change it or try to take it beyond the truth, this would be more than a legal tragedy, but a defeat for both the peoples of Cuba and the United States. For that reason we have to put all our efforts into winning.’

Q: Is it usual that a unanimous decision of three judges be taken for reconsideration by the full Eleventh Circuit?

‘It is very unusual that an en banc or full court hearing is granted for reconsideration of a unanimous decision that is based on an analysis of the individual facts of the case.

‘The U.S. Attorney announced to the press this reconsideration is very important `for the community’. The acrimony in which he presented the reconsideration petition was also very unusual.

‘I have personally spent 25 years participating in these cases and I have never seen any appeals court accept a case like this en banc.’

Q: How will the Eleventh Circuit now treat the situation?

‘We will see, because they still have to meet again to decide which will be the point or the points that they want to debate or what are the facts they have to resolve. They will have other meetings before telling us which are the arguments that we have to present.

‘As to what will occur, we will have to prepare new briefs or reports to the court explaining the case once again with all the important data; afterwards the prosecution will respond. We will then have the opportunity to present a brief response to the prosecutor, and finally we will have an oral hearing before the whole court.’

Q: You have said that this truth that the world now knows must be reaffirmed. Would you elaborate?

‘Well, I believe that everybody understands the situation that exists in Miami. The fundamental thing for us as lawyers is to avoid any procedural rule that can prevent that truth from being part of the decision.

‘We as citizens know the reality. Everybody can see that Miami has become a community in which any decision involving important matters for the people of Cuba will be affected by prejudice. It is very clear, there were dozens of Cuban-Americans called in to testify and they acknowledged this. Therefore we should underline what everybody knows: that prejudice exists in that city with any topic linked to Cuba.

‘The U.S. Attorney’s office has never tried to contradict this because it is unable to do so. It will try to convince the court to close its eyes to reality regarding the prejudice within the community.

‘Our battle, as defense lawyers, is to convince the court that it is not acceptable to proceed in a case in which the accused are innocent and been given excessive sentences – three of them life imprisonment.’

Q: What should the people of the United States know about this case?

‘Given the nature of the press and television in the United States it is difficult to present a serious debate with important views.

‘The people of the U.S. don’t know much about the case. It is my intention in the next few months to take this theme and try to position it more in the media to increase knowledge about this injustice.’

Q: In your 25 years of professional experience and making a comparison with other cases in which you have been involved, has there been any other resembling this?

‘Not really. But I have confidence that we attorneys will be able to present the truth of this case. We will dedicate our time and all our efforts to argue it in an understandable and irrefutable manner. It will be difficult, but can be done. This is a case that is different than any other one that could be called a criminal case, because the Five are not criminals by any means. This is something everyone understands.

‘We are speaking of ideas, of an ideological battle. In the United States what we have is the politicization of criminal law, and in this case the criminalization of the political and attempting to bring a political battle before a criminal court.

‘This is the only case in which I have participated with such a situation, because the Five are not criminals and they did not cause any harm to my country. What they attempted to do was to protect Cuba from terrorist actions planned in Miami by extreme right groups of Cuban origin. In my experience there is no other case in the USA that you can compare with that of the Five.’

The document issued by the Court appears in its website