By Marie Frail | Reuters
A Cuban spy serving two life sentences in a U.S. high-security prison hopes an appeals court will annul convictions by a Miami jury he says was too scared to acquit him in a highly charged anti-Castro setting.
Gerardo Hernandez told Reuters by telephone from prison that he was spying on paramilitary exile groups in Miami, not the United States, when he and four members of his so-called Wasp Network were arrested by the FBI in 1998.
His mission was to prevent “terrorist” attacks on Cuba, he said.
“You can be a terrorist in this country if you are a terrorist against Cuba, no problem with that. Those are the good terrorists for the U.S. government,” he said from Victorville Penitentiary in California.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hold oral hearings on August 20 in an appeal that could reopen the case of the “Cuban Five” convicted in 2001 of spying on behalf of Fidel Castro’s Communist government.
Prosecutors accused the Cuban Five of trying to infiltrate U.S. military installations to obtain secrets. One did work as a janitor at a Boca Chica Navy training base near Key West.
Hernandez, 42, was also indicted for conspiracy to commit murder based on the allegation he passed information to Havana that led to the downing in 1996 by a Cuban MiG jet of two small planes operated by a Miami-based Cuban exile group and flying near Cuba. Four people were killed.
Hernandez says that was no secret: the exile group Brothers to the Rescue, which had overflown Havana dropping leaflets, announced its plan to fly toward Cuba in a news conference.
“If you go to the worst espionage cases in U.S. history, those people got life sentences for stealing very secret and damaging documents for foreign powers,” he said. “I got life for stealing nothing.”