The Miami Five - the legal side of the battle

News from Cuba | Friday, 21 August 2009

by Deisy Francis Mexidor for Granma International

Members of the Five’s defense team express their opinions. Re-sentencing of Antonio, Ramón and Fernando scheduled for October in Miami.

A “No,” without any explanation whatsoever, was the response of the U.S. Supreme Court last June 15 to the petition to review the case of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René. Yet another insult on the part of Made in USA-justice. Despite the worldwide clamor in favor of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, that country’s highest judicial body turned a “deaf ear” and, loyal to political interests, maintained the government line. But voices continue to cry out against this despicable act.

Nor is it the case that “legal avenues” have been closed off, according to Joaquín Méndez who, together with other members of the Five’s legal team, recently held a press conference in Havana.

The case is now entering the phase in which on the one hand, we are awaiting re-sentencing of three of the Five: Ramón, Antonio and Fernando and, on the other, an attempt to reopen Gerardo’s case via an indirect appeal, says Méndez, acknowledging that, in all his professional experience he has never had a case that has dragged on for so long.

“From the day they were arrested up until today, 11 years later, the case has still not been settled.”


“We have a date set for October 13,” commented Méndez, defense lawyer for Fernando, referring to the day announced by Miami Judge Joan Lenard for re-sentencing, the reason why Tony, Ramón and Fernando are to be transferred to Miami.

Given the proximity of the event, it would be wrong to create expectations that go beyond the reality that lies ahead and which, as has been demonstrated throughout the years, is extremely complicated and uncertain.

Nevertheless, without offering any opinions on what could take place before the same judge who convicted the Five in 2001, the lawyer stated that Lenard will have to take into account the instructions of the 11th Circuit Appeals Court of Atlanta, which noted that “the sentences were incorrectly imposed” and, as a consequence, quashed them.

For the re-sentencing, Ramón Labañino’s defense lawyer is hoping that “the government will provide us with the information that we need to adequately prepare for the event.”

At the same time, Tom Goldstein - the specialist who headed the defense team for the Supreme Court review - believes that, for the re-sentencing, “the judge has to take into consideration the lengthy period that they have been incarcerated, the suffering of both the prisoners and their families, and also the recognition of the international community.”

Meanwhile, Antonio’s lawyer Leonard Weinglass commented that the life sentences handed down to Antonio and Ramón could be overturned although, “I can’t predict at the current time what the new sentences might be.”

Weinglass took the opportunity to confirm that the defense team “did not agree with the Appeal Court decision not to send Gerardo for re-sentencing.”

However, Rafael Anglada stated, “Gerardo is very strong, supreme.”

On the other hand, “we know what was accumulated in the amicus briefs. It is really is very striking that governments such as that of Mexico, a number of Nobel Prize winners, lawyers’ associations and celebrities throughout the world have affirmed their support for the Five. This has never occurred before in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court,” recalls Anglada, introducing the issue of the mitigating conditions that cannot be avoided when it comes to the re-sentencing of Tony, Ramón and Fernando.

For example, the lawyer continued, “Antonio has created a chess class and an art class in a maximum security prison, in a penitentiary where typically, a considerable number of inmates are individuals with severe mental health problems” and he asked, “how will the court the receive the list of English and math courses that he gives to other prisoners so that they obtain junior high or high school diplomas through exams?”


They confirmed that Tony, Ramón, Fernando and René are all concerned about Gerardo’s situation, but Goldstein believes that their legal efforts will demonstrate that the conspiracy to commit murder for which Gerardo received one of his life sentences is “totally absurd.”

Méndez confirmed that within the arbitrary and illegal nature of this case, the treatment meted out to Gerardo remains the greatest injustice.

Nor was René González considered for re-sentencing. Phillip Robert Horowitz maintains that at this stage, his defendant is looking to serve 15 years in prison where, just like the others, he has behaved magnificently.

For that reason, he doesn’t conceal his admiration for René who, in spite of everything, “is looking forward to returning home to his wife and daughters.” He will complete the sentence handed down to him in “approximately two years time”, commented Horowitz. He faces an additional “three years of parole, which is equivalent to bail,” he noted.

Richard Klugh, a specialist in the appeal courts, summed up by saying that they have never lost hope in an eventual victory, “because we are in the right,” but unfortunately, in this case the U.S. judicial system has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not always attach importance to this maxim.

The lawyers acknowledge that, “in a modest way,” according to Rafael Anglada, “that they are the legal side of this great battle” for justice, and praised the indispensable nature of “that other side: the political battle,” which should never be diminished for a single instant.

Translated by Granma International

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