Talking Points on the Miami Five

Campaign News | Wednesday, 17 April 2002

Why the Five have been mistreated and should have a retrial.

The trial took place in Miami, an environment entirely hostile to the accused because it has been the hotbed of anti-Castroism and anti-Communism throughout the last 40 years. The 6th amendment to the US constitution gives the accused the right to a fair trial in a neutral place. In this respect their rights under the constitution were fragrantly violated when the judge declined a petition on those grounds for the trial to be relocated. The scandal of the kidnapping of the child Elian Gonzalez, and the resighting of the Grammy Awards ceremony for 2001 (through fears of a violent attack because a Cuban band was invited to play there) occurred while the trial was going on. The local media carried out an intense campaign against the Five while the case progressed. There can be little doubt that the jury must have been affected by this.

The Five were subjected to cruel and unusual detentions and punishments, a violation of the 8th Amendment to the constitution, because they were placed in solitary confinement for long periods even while still awaiting trial. The first of these periods lasted 17 months and the second 48 days. Their defence was therefore obstructed because they were unable to talk freely to their defence lawyers. In addition, being removed and cut-off from their families also infringed theirs and their families’ rights. Most notably in the case of René Gonzalez, a US citizen by birth, whose youngest daughter was four months’ old at the time of his arrest. Being denied access to her father denies his daughter her rights under the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, to which the US is the only country in the world is not a signatory

The judge denied the defence access to much of the evidence under the pretext that it was an official secret. Defence petitions to the contrary were denied.

Witnesses were bullied by the prosecution in a manner which should have been stopped by the judge. The press also intimidated some witnesses so that they were afraid to reveal some evidence that might have been useful to the defence.

The jury acted suspiciously in that they did not ask for one clarification of any of the evidence. The defence lawyers were amazed in that throughout thousands of pages of evidence and five months of trial, not one single point of clarification was asked for. The jury reached a unanimous verdict on all charges for all five.

The sentences were disproportionate and excessive. The judge gave the absolute maximum on all counts without heeding any pleas for mitigation from the defence.

The five claim to be political prisoners but the US refuses to acknowledge this and is treating them as criminals. They are being kept in maximum security jails reserved for the worst and most violent criminals.

They are being kept in prisons that are far apart and at a great distance from Cuba making it as difficult as possible for them to be visited. They are thus being de facto denied the rights that common criminals enjoy to be visited by their families.

They were found guilty of espionage against the US without any evidence or testimonies to prove that they had ever obtained or even looked to obtain classified information. In fact, there were defence witnesses of senior US military rank who testified to the contrary, that they had not obtained any secrets and had not threatened the security of the state. The jury ignored these witnesses.

In the case of Gerardo Hernandez, who was found guilty of Conspiracy to Murder in the case of the Feb. 26th shutdown of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, there was no evidence whatsoever presented to link him to this event. This charge violates the Doctrine of the Act of the State in which an individual cannot be charged with an offence committed by a state. This Doctrine has been endorsed and upheld on numerous occasions by he Supreme Court of the US, but by this precedent the courts have put this internationally recognised norm in jeopardy.

It was proved beyond doubt by the defence in the trial that the five were acting exclusively against groups of anti-Castro extremists in Florida who have planned sabotage and terrorist attacks on Cuba in the past. The trial result was extremely favourable to these groups. After the trial, Jose Basulto, a known former CIA agent and self-admitted anti-Castro paramilitary, was seen embracing the prosecution attorney

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