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Posted August 10, 2005 by mattlawrence in Castro's Cuba

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Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon called on the U.S. government to release five accused Cuban spies serving long prison terms after a federal appeals court threw out their convictions and sentences.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005; Posted: 8:54 a.m. EDT (12:54 GMT)

HAVANA, Cuba (AP)— Alarcon applauded Tuesday’s ruling that said the men’s trial in Miami wasn’t fair and impartial because of community prejudice and extensive media coverage. He insisted the men be liberated while awaiting a new trial.

“What the U.S. government should do is grant them freedom immediately,” Alarcon told Granma International, the Communist Party’s weekly newspaper distributed overseas. “If they want to accuse them of something else, then accuse them, present evidence, and search for an impartial tribunal.”

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ordered a new trial after agreeing with defense attorneys who challenged the 2001 convictions, saying that prejudice against President Fidel Castro and his communist government runs high in Miami.

Alarcon said the decision vindicated his government, which has run a high-profile campaign on the island and abroad promoting the five men as heroes who were victims of anti-Cuban bias in southern Florida.

“No one can say any longer that our claim that the judicial process was filled with prejudice ... has no basis,” he said.

Several of the men’s relatives, who were in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday with Cuba’s delegation to a youth festival, were overjoyed by the ruling.

“It’s been many years since I’ve received such good news,” Olga Salanueva, wife of prisoner Rene Gonzalez, told Cuban broadcasters, alternating between smiles and tears. “We’ve obtained a victory.”

Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Gerardo Fernandez, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero were convicted in June 2001 of serving as unregistered agents of a foreign government. All five acknowledge being Cuban agents but said they were spying on “terrorist” exile groups opposed to Castro, not the U.S. government.

Family members and the parliament speaker said they were confident the men would be acquitted in a future trial.

“I don’t have the slightest doubt that any honest person analyzing this case will arrive at the same conclusion (as the appeals court),” Alarcon said.

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