Havana, Aug 10 (PL) Defense council Leonard Weinglass stressed Wednesday that yesterday´s overthrow of the Miami court decision which unfairly jailed five Cubans was a major victory and that they deserve an apology.
In a telephone conversation he said from his office in New York that the 93-page ruling by a three judge panel of the Atlanta appeals court places them in the same situation before they entered the Miami courtroom, and that the gratifying verdict is so strongly in their favor no lawyer would think they should enter again.
By a unanimous vote, the judges of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned Tuesday the verdict handed down on them by a Miami court in June 2001, and also ruled that a new trial should take place, as requested by the defense, in a city other than Miami.
According to the ruling, the volatile anti-Cuban political climate and intense media coverage, both amplified in the wake of the Elián González drama, made a fair trial in Miami an impossibility.
The defense attorneys had asked Miami Judge Joan Lenard to move the trial out of Miami in January, 2000.
After a trial legal analysts considered was a frame-up, the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labańino, Rene González, and Fernando González, detained in 1998 on several spying charges, were sentenced by Judge Lenard to harsh jail terms, including double life in prison for one of the defendants.
Actually, they just were gathering information on anti-Cuban terrorist plots in Miami in an effort to thwart violent actions that would also affect US citizens.
Hernández, Labańino and Guerrero received life sentences from Lenard, who added a second life imprisonment for Hernández. Rene González was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Fernando González to 19 years behind bars.
The Atlanta ruling comes less than a month after a UN panel ruled that the detention of the five men was arbitrary and in violation of international law.
The judgment came from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, part of the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights.
But “this is a political issue,” Attorney Weinglass warned, voicing fear over a possible appeal by the US government prosecutors in an effort to delay the process, and said his team is reviewing appropriate steps for bail.
When asked if he supported Cuban Parliament Chairman Ricardo Alarcon´s demand for their immediate release, he agreed, lamenting the fact that “They´ve already done seven years.”
In remarks to the media in Caracas, Venezuela, where he is attending the World Youth Festival, Alarcon hailed the ruling as “a victory against those who promote terrorism, against hypocrites who tout a supposed war on terror and in reality protect terrorists and jail young men who only acted to oppose terrorism in the United States.”
Amid a flurry of calls, the defense lawyer took time to comment on the future of his famous case, saying “the next step is up to the US government. They have 21 days to decide whether or not to take the case to the full circuit court.”
Massive protests on the island, deep-seated support from the international community and a considerable amount of backing from US people may have finally brought about an ethical judicial decision.
Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, was quoted on freethefive.org as saying, “This is a huge victory! We are ecstatic about this decision. It confirms that the five Cubans are completely innocent, as we always knew they were.”
These victims of lawlessness have spent the better part of a decade languishing in US jails, two of them without seeing their families, and as Weinglass says, “instead of a retrial they deserve an apology from the US governemt and be sent home.”