US judge cuts jails terms for two of Miami Five

News from Cuba | Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Reports from world media on yesterday's ruling

From Prensa Latina

Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon stated that the rise of solidarity worldwide and the stance by US President Barrack Obama could release the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters unfairly imprisoned in that northern nation.

"Now Obama can talk," stated Alarcon on Tuesday night at the end of a TV-radio program in which he termed unjust the continuance in prison for over 11 years of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez.

"They have served more than is necessary, always within an unfair sentence, because they should not be imprisoned a second," said the legislative leader after mentioning the new sentences against two of them.

Labañino saw his sentence reduced from life term plus 18 years in prison to 30, while that of Fernando was reduced from 19 to 17 years and nine months.

"This has been an important day, but it has not been a cause of happiness," the parliamentary leader stressed after calling to redouble actions for the release of the Five, as they are universally known.

Any sentence imposed to them is unfair, but of course any reduction is beneficial for those condemned men, because prison conditions are changed to them, Alarcon noted.

The Obama government also recognized that the 2001 sentences were unjust, and proved that the White House could be obliged by an extensive world mobilization, the island's head of the parliament.

Guerrero, another Cuban 5, was the sentence reduced in October from life imprisonment plus 10 years to 22, while Rene with 15 years and Gerardo with two life terms plus 15 years have been excluded from this re-sentence process.From the BBC

A US judge has reduced the jail terms of two Cuban men convicted of spying.

Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez were part of the Cuban Five group, jailed in the US in 2001 for spying for the then government of Fidel Castro.

Labanino's life sentence has been reduced to 30 years and Gonzalez's by one year to 18 years.

The resentencing follows an appeals court ruling that the terms originally imposed were too harsh. A third man had his jail term reduced in October.

Antonia Guerrero had his life sentence reduced to 22 years.

Gonzalez had requested a greater drop in his sentence, said the Associated Press news agency.

But US District Judge Joan Lenard said it was "important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country".


The case has long been a cause of friction with Cuba, where the men, who have been in US custody since 1998 - are considered national heroes.

Labanino, Gonzalez and Guerrero - along with Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez - were found guilty in 2001 of infiltrating US military bases and Cuban exile groups, and giving the information to Cuba.

Last year, an appeals court upheld their convictions but ordered three of the group to be resentenced.

US prosecutors have insisted the men were found guilty on hard evidence, while Cuban exile groups say they were justly punished.

The Cuban government says the men were not in Miami to spy on the US but to prevent anti-Castro exile groups from launching what it calls terrorist attacks on Cuba.

Following Tuesday's hearing, the president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said the new sentences were "not without importance".

But he said the jailing the men was still "unjust" and called on the US to release them.

--------------------------------------------------Reprinted from Associated Press

Cubans get reduced sentences for spying in US

by Curt Anderson

MIAMI - Two former Cuban intelligence officers convicted of spying in the U.S. were handed reduced prison sentences Tuesday after an appeals court ruled their original terms were too severe.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard accepted an agreement reducing Ramon Labanino's term from life in prison to 30 years behind bars. At a separate hearing hours later, Lenard shaved a little more than a year off Fernando Gonzalez' 19-year sentence.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year had vacated sentences for the men, both 46, who were part of the so-called "Cuban Five" spy ring. A third member of the ring had his life sentence replaced earlier this year with a far lesser prison term.

Labanino's attorneys' had worked out the new sentence with prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller said the deal resulted in "a reasonable sentence."

Gonzalez, though, had hoped for a greater reduction than what he got.

"It is important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country," Lenard said.

The five men, who are lionized as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 of attempting to infiltrate military bases including Key West's Boca Chica Naval Air Station and the Miami-based Southern Command headquarters in the 1990s. Prosecutors said they also kept tabs on Cuban exiles opposed to the communist government of brothers Fidel and Raul Castro and sought to place operatives inside campaigns of anti-Castro politicians in the U.S.

A key goal was getting inside Southern Command to obtain any U.S. plans for an invasion of Cuba, Miller said.

One of the five, whose life sentence still stands, was convicted of murder conspiracy in the 1996 killings of four "Brothers to the Rescue" pilots whose planes were shot down by Cuban MiG fighters over the Florida Straits. The organization dropped pro-democracy leaflets on the island and helped Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S.

Labanino oversaw many of the Miami-based spy activities for Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence, according to court documents. He also took part in a plot known as "Operation Texaco" involving the theft of dozens of dead infants' identities to concoct fake documents such as passports and drivers licenses for other Cuban operatives.

Lenard initially sentenced Labanino to the maximum life sentence for espionage conspiracy. But the appeals court ruled that was unjustified because no top secret U.S. information were obtained. The same legal reasoning led Lenard in October to reduce the sentence for 50-year-old Antonio Guerrero, who had spied from a job at the Key West Navy base, from life to 22 years.

Gonzalez's 19-year sentence was thrown out because he was wrongly labeled as a supervisor of other spies in the group's attempts to obtain false identification and travel documents. But prosecutors said Gonzalez was a supervisor in other areas, such as the attempt to infiltrate the Southern Command, and had extensive spy training and multiple false identities including the Mexican "Ruben Campa" - a name stolen from a dead child.


Reprinted from Reuters

U.S. judge reduces Cuban spy's life jail sentence

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday reduced the prison term for a Cuban spy from a life sentence to 30 years in a high-profile espionage case that has strained already hostile ties between Havana and Washington.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard cut the sentence of Ramon Labanino, also known as Luis Medina, from a life term to 30 years, an assistant to the judge told Reuters.

A second convicted spy, Fernando Gonzalez, also known as Ruben Campa, who is serving a 19-year term, was due to be resentenced later on Tuesday.

U.S. prosecutors said both men were part of a Cuban espionage ring that had sought to penetrate U.S. military facilities and had spied on the Cuban exile community in Florida.

The original sentences imposed by Lenard against Labanino and Gonzalez were thrown out as excessively harsh last year by a U.S. appeals court, which argued the Cuban agents had not succeeded in actually sending back top secret information, despite their conspiracy to do so.

Labanino and Gonzalez were arrested in 1998 along with three other Cuban agents. Prosecutors said they formed the so-called "Wasp Network" sent to the United States to infiltrate exile groups opposed to Cuba's communist government, then led by Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro, now 83, handed over the Cuban presidency last year to his younger brother, Raul Castro, 78. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to try to improve U.S.-Cuban ties after a half century of hostility.

The case of the five spies has long been a point of contention between the United States and Cuba, which demands their release, hails them as heroes and says they were trying to prevent "terrorist" attacks by exile extremists.

In October, one of the five, Antonio Guerrero, had his sentence reduced from life to about 22 years.

(Reporting by Tom Brown and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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