Guardian Newspaper publishes article on the Five

Campaign News | Monday, 7 April 2003

Article by Duncan Campbell

Guardian Newspaper publishes article on the Five

Convicted Cuban 'spies' to tell US appeal court they were framed

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles

Monday April 7, 2003

The Guardian

Five Cuban men convicted in Miami of spying claim that they were framed to appease the Cuban American exile community there because they had infiltrated anti-Castro terrorist groups in Florida.

The case of the Miami Five, which goes to appeal today in Atlanta, Georgia, has become a cause celebre in Cuba, where hundreds of thousands have demonstrated on their behalf after it was reported that they were being held in solitary confinement, denied reading and writing material, and kept in cells without natural light.

In Miami, on the other hand, there were celebrations in the Cuban exile community when the five were convicted and given jail terms ranging from 15 years to life for conspiring to spy, after a seven-month trial.

The five men, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez, went to Miami in the 90s. The Cuban government had given them the task of infiltrating exile groups in Florida which had been involved in attempts to unseat Fidel Castro.

The story behind their prosecution goes back to 1998. At that time the US, like Cuba, appeared to be concerned about attacks which had been mounted against Cuba by exile groups.

In the worst of them, in 1976, 73 people died when a Cuban airliner flying from Venezuela to Havana was blown up.

Senior members of the FBI visited Cuba in 1998 to meet their Cuban counterparts, who gave with dossiers about what they suggested was a Miami-based terrorist network: information which had been compiled in part by Cubans who had infiltrated exile groups.

Three months later the FBI arrested the five men and charged them with conspiracy to commit espionage.

One was also charged with conspiracy to murder, in connection with the shooting down in Cuban airspace in 1996 of two planes belonging to a Cuban exile group.

The five men all had low-paid jobs and had been using false identities. They admitted using the identities, but only in order to infiltrate the exile groups.

The men claimed that they had learned from a member of the national guard in Miami about a plan by one of the groups, the Cuban American National Foundation, to employ a team of 40 men with military experience to carry out attacks against Cuba, with what they believed was the backing of the US armed forces.

Attempts to have the trial moved from Miami failed which, the men's lawyers say, ensured guilty verdicts.

'There was no evidence of spying, no evidence that any secrets of the US were ever transmitted to Cuba,' said Len Weinglass, the lawyer leading their appeal. 'The information they were sending back was all 'open source'.

'They were prosecuted because the US government saw that they were getting a little too close to our terrorists. '

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this