http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/miami-court-upholds-convictions-of-cuban-five-but-vacates-three-sentences/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Miami court upholds convictions of Cuban Five but vacates three sentences

Posted June 04, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Reuters

A long-awaited Decision of a U.S. Appeals Court

A U.S. court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of five Cubans serving long prison sentences for spying and conspiracy to commit murder but opened the door to new and possibly lighter sentences for three of the men.

FBI agents arrested the five in 1998 and they were convicted in 2001 of 26 counts of spying on the Cuban exile community in Miami on behalf of Fidel Castro’s government.

Lawyers for the men, in an August 2007 filing with the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, said they deserved a new trial because the prosecution made statements in closing arguments that violated court rules and because the sentences were harsher than the crimes deserved.

The appeals court rejected arguments that the convictions should be overturned but said the federal court in Miami may have erred when it imposed the sentences against three of the men in 2001.

The so-called “Cuban Five” are celebrated by many in Cuba as national heroes who were spying on armed exile groups in Miami to prevent attacks on their country and are victims of Washington’s campaign against the communist-run island.

To hard-line, anti-Castro members of the Cuban exile community the five agents were justly convicted, however, and Havana’s support for them is seen as an example of an anti-U.S. agenda in Cuba dating back to Castro’s 1959 revolution.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the appellate court affirmed a sentence of two life terms for Gerardo Hernandez, who was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder based on charges he passed information to Havana that led to the 1996 downing by a Cuban MiG fighter jet of two small planes operated by a Miami-based exile group that were flying near Cuba. Four people were killed.

The court also affirmed the 15-year sentence of Rene Gonzalez, who was convicted of acting as an agent for a foreign government and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The sentences of the three other men, two of whom were serving life terms, were vacated and remanded for re-sentencing proceedings in district court.

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Member Comments

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On June 05, 2008, Curt wrote:

Those Five Cuban patriots never should have been in jail in the first place. They only came here to protect their country from the terrorist Miami Mafia organizations. They even gave the U.S government useful information and this is the way we pay them back. Those who complain of political prisoners in Cuba need to take a look at the absurdity of this case. Hopefully justice will prevail and those 5 heros will eventually be set free. Venceremos!!!!

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On June 06, 2008, Cubana wrote:

Curt: there are none so blind as will not see. Please re-read this paragraph:

In Wednesday’s ruling, the appellate court affirmed a sentence of two life terms for Gerardo Hernandez, who was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder based on charges he passed information to Havana that led to the 1996 downing by a Cuban MiG fighter jet of two small planes operated by a Miami-based exile group that were flying near Cuba. Four people were killed.

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On June 06, 2008, manfredz wrote:

flying near cuba?  If i recall they were within Cuban airspace.
On other side .... Cuban patriots??? They were enemy operatives operating within us territory .....
neither side is clean in this…. but do feel that to give them life sentences is way out of line.

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On June 06, 2008, MiamiCuban wrote:

Even if the pilots had not entered Cuban airspace and were only dangerously close, the fact is that in the past they had entered Cuban airspace and had also flown over Havana to drop leaflets.  Is it really a stretch of the imagination to assume that they would have, again, in the future attempted the same thing?  And maybe with something more than just leaflets?  Cuba had EVERY RIGHT to defend itself.  Any country, including the U.S., would have done the same thing if an enemy tantalized in such a blatant manner.  The Cuban Five are heroes for having risked their lives in defense of their country.

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On June 06, 2008, publisher wrote:

Defend itself from Cessna airplanes? I agree that the Brothers to the Rescue were asking for trouble but shooting them down with Mig jet fighters is a little extreme. No?

The Cuban Five were convicted in US courts and the appeals were heard.

If you don’t believe in the US court system you should move to your Utopian worker’s paradise in Cuba where you can live equally (poor) among the Cuban people and enjoy the free education, healthcare and food.

Enjoy.

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On June 06, 2008, MiamiCuban wrote:

Publisher, are you actually saying that no one has ever been unfairly convicted in a U.S. courtroom? 

I happen to believe in the U.S. court system and trust the laws to be fair….but in the end all decisions are made by human beings who can be biased, bribed, or even threatened.  These are not my opinions, but merely the facts.

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On June 06, 2008, MiamiCuban wrote:

Also…based on the information from the Cuban Five, the Cuban government did what was most sensible and wise—-it contacted the U.S. government so that it could intercede and stop BTTR from continuing their flights near and over Cuba.  For whatever reason, those requests were completely ignored and the BTTR—at their own risk—-decided to continue in provoking what ultimately ended in disaster.

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On June 06, 2008, manfredz wrote:

agree that it was over-reaction of Cuba to shoot them down, but unfortunately I don’t think anything short of that would have gotten them to stop.
Unfortunately the crew of the plane were pawns in a much bigger game between the US and Cuba and fortunately many fewer than the pawns that went ashore at the bay of Pigs. - different scenario, same game from my perspective.

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On June 06, 2008, Mako wrote:

Reverse roles for a moment. If the US was the recipient of a long lasting embargo by a hostile opponent that had made many attempts to assasinate its leader and destabilize it economy, and foreign aircraft (don’t care if they were Cessnas dropping leaflets,or any other unwelcome commodity; declassified CIA docs confirm chemicals were dropped on crops during the Kennedy administration) .... How would the US react ?  Doesn’t every country have a right to self defense ?