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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Cuban Five case appealed again

Posted February 16, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Defense attorneys for the five Cubans held prisoners in the United State for fighting anti-Cuban terrorism, reiterated the men’s case as they again took the floor in Atlanta’s Federal Appeals Court, according Tuesday’s broadcast in Cuba of the “Round Table” news-commentary program.

Several experts on the program commented about the hearing that took place in the US state of Georgia, where 12 magistrates (one was absent) heard the appeal arguments made by both the defense and the prosecution in the case of anti-terrorist fighters.

The five men “Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero” were taken into custody by US authorities in 1998 after having infiltrated anti-Cuban right wing extremist groups that operate with Washington’s protection in South Florida. After being subjected to a highly politicized trial in Miami that concluded in 2001, extremely harsh sentences were meted out.

Collectively, the “Cuban Five” were given a total four life sentences plus an additional 77 years in prison.

Following a first appeal of those verdicts, the sentences were overturned in August 2005 by a three-judge panel that ordered a new trial take place in an appropriate venue.

Richard Klugh, the defense attorney for Fernando Gonzalez, explained via a telephone interview that the Court had many doubts about the prosecution allegations, and that the prosecution’s representative couldn’t answer some of the questions asked by the judges.

Klugh said that the judges gave indications of being in greater agreement with the defense’s arguments during the hearing.

On the Round Table broadcast, University of Havana Law Professor Rodolfo Davalos voiced his assessment that the prosecution continues to lie by attempting to put the process into a legal aspect. He also highlighted the fact that two of three judges who were part of the panel that handed down the previous decision to overturn the men’s sentences participated in Tuesday’s hearing; Davalos suggested that those jurists are likely to uphold their previous landmark decision.

Professor Davalos, who has followed the case of the Five from its very beginning, also underscored the importance of the presented to the court of two amicus briefs with judicial analysis conducted by important US legal associations supporting men. This was contrasted to the prosecution’s hurried presentation of a brief prepared by a discredited group of Miami-based lawyers who are the anti-Cuban Mafia based in South Florida.

Davalos reminded to the audience that during the previous appeal in Atlanta “real justice was done;” and although he advised that this legal process be watched with caution, he expects that in the end, the entire court will ratify the previous decision which overturned the men’s convictions.

Roberto Gonzalez, himself a lawyer and the brother of imprisoned Rene Gonzalez, was present during the hearing in Atlanta today and told the Round Table audience via telephone, that what occurred in Atlanta was positive for the defense, which centered its presentation in the issue of the first trial’s venue and therefore how principles of impartiality were violated.

Several law experts have already criticized the political motivated actions of the US government to extend the incarceration of the anti-terrorist fighters through delaying tactics such as the unprecedented appeal for a full court re-review of the case.

The appeals court requested that the attorneys concentrate into three main areas: if during the Miami trial there was a mistake by denying the change of venue; if a mistake was made by determining that the accused could not demonstrate that there was a prejudicial attitude against them, and if a mistake was made by denying them a new process.

The decision of the appeals court will be handed down at an undetermined date.

Journalist Arleen Rodriguez, one of the broadcast’s panelists, reminded the audience that relevant experts belonging to several international organizations attended Tuesday’s hearing in Atlanta and later gave a press conference. Other actions related to the case of the Cuban patriots are being planned, she said.

Rodriguez also highlighted the importance of the documentary film “Mission Against Terror,” which was recently shown at a US university after being introduced by the distinguished American scholar Noam Chomsky. The film exposes the history of terrorism against Cuba and demonstrates the work of hundreds of “Free the Five” committees around the world.

Radio Havana Cuba reporter Bernie Dwyer also participated on Tuesday’s Round Table by telephone link-up to speak about how her film “Mission Against Terror ” is been shown across American cities. Dwyer said the documentary is being received favorably by US audiences.

Estela Calloni, a well known Argentinean journalist, gave testimony to the growing interest developing in South America about the situation of the Five.

The Round Table also broadcast an interview given to Cable News Network (CNN) by Andres Gomez, the national coordinator of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, a Cuban-American organization which has advocated the release of the five men. Gomez explained in detail the real mission of the Five in Miami and gave information about the legal violations committed during their trial.

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