Ricardo Alarcón - udate on the Miami Five
Campaign News | Monday, 9 June 2003
Ricardo Alarcón, President of the Cuban Parliament
Ricardo Alarcón: Nobody Should Take Away Their Right to Family Visits
At a recent event to celebrate Gerardo Hernández?s 38th birthday in the Museum of the Revolution, Bernie Dwyer interviewed Ricardo Alarcón, President of the Cuban Parliament, and asked him about the current situation of the Five Cuban men, the work that is currently underway on the campaign to free the Five and the US courts? rejection of the Amicus brief submitted by the Cuban Criminology Association. Regarding the denial of visas for two of the political prisoners? wives, during the interview Alarcón stated that family visits are something that even under the circumstances of war, or even for killers and criminals, are a right that nobody can take away and the US is under an obligation to guarantee those rights.
[Bernie Dwyer] What is the latest information on the situation of the Five and the campaign to liberate them?
[Ricardo Alarcón] The latest news is that Lompoc prison (where Gerardo Hernández is incarcerated) is in lockdown because apparently there was an incident and some people were wounded there, in fact a man was killed. Fortunately, it had nothing to do with Gerardo but, as one of the inmates, he is now in a situation where the prison is closed and there are no visits and no communication.
We are trying to continue our work and to mobilize people. There will be an important conference next week in Mexico City. The Mexican Congress and people from the US, South America, Cuba and other countries will participate. I myself will take part by phone. This is part of an effort by a large number of Mexican parliamentarians to mobilize public opinion regarding this case.
There was also an important meeting in Berlin a few days ago. It was the anniversary of Cuba Sí, the solidarity with Cuba movement in Germany. The Vice president of the German national assembly was there and spoke at the meeting. There were also some human rights activists and lawyers from Europe and the US. The Five were the central issue at the conference and there was the opportunity to meet with various parliamentary factions within the Bundestag and have frank and open talks with them about the international situation regarding Cuba and in particular, the case of the Five.
We have to continue working hard. I would say that at this particular moment the issue of the denial of visas for Adriana, Gerardo’s wife and Olga, Rene’s wife, and Ivette, their daughter, should be at centre of our efforts because it is a completely unjustified act and a denial of the most fundamental rights of the prisoners, their wives and even of a little girl. This is something that the US should not be able to get away with without at least facing strong denunciation from all over the world.
[BD] The British and Irish Free the Five Campaigns requested Amnesty International to intervene with the US Attorney General regarding the denial of family visits to the Cuban men in prison in the United States. They did take some action a while ago. Has there been any follow-up on their part?
[RA] I understand that they have sent two letters to the US Attorney General John Ashcroft but he has not answered yet. Amnesty (US) have also sent a letter to President Bush a few days ago referring to the situation between Cuba and the US. One of the specific points they raised was the situation of the Five and particularly the situation of the two prisoners who are not allowed to have family visits. In the report that they issued just this week, although it included a number of accusations against Cuba because, as you know, Amnesty is an institution that has not been particularly friendly towards Cuba, but even so they raised the issue of Gerardo and Adriana and Olga and René.
Notwithstanding the position that one might take regarding the substance of the case, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever not to permit a wife to visit her husband or a prisoner to receive the visit of his wife and his daughter. That is something that even under the circumstances of war, or even for killers and criminals, is a right that nobody can take away and the US is under an obligation to guarantee those rights. We should denounce that situation without hesitation, without wavering until these two women are allowed to visit their husbands while they are in prison in the US.
[BD] The Cuban Criminology Association submitted an amicus brief to be put to the 11th District Court of Appeals in Atlanta. At the time, Erik Luna, Professor of Law at the University of Utah, who drafted the brief, was very confident that it would be accepted. However the Amicus brief was turned down, which means it won’t even get a reading in the court. Can you comment on that?
[RA] It is difficult to comment on that because the court didn’t give any explanation. They just used two words: Denied. Only that, they didn’t say why it was denied. We don’t know if it was for technical reasons or a matter of substance.
I think it was unfortunate because the Amicus referred to a substantial aspect that has to be taken into consideration in this case. Also it is a very well drafted document using practically all American sources, official US documents, government and official statements and information that was reflected in the mainstream media in the US. It is very well written and gives a clear background to the case. I think that notwithstanding that it was denied, that it was not admitted as part of the appeal process, at least everybody can know what it contained. We should continue to ask for support for that Amicus. People should have the opportunity to try to answer that question: why it was not admitted? It will be read at that conference in Mexico that I mentioned. It has been translated into Spanish and will be distributed there. More people are taking positions with regard to that document. If it is not considered in the appeal process, it has to be considered in the public opinion process by making it more and more known by giving the opportunity to others to comment on it and this is precisely the idea behind the international conference which will take place in Mexico next week.
[BD] The main thrust of the Amicus brief was the state of necessity under which Cuba had to take steps to defend itself against terrorist emanating from US territory. It is a crucial point that needs to be more highlighted. Do you think that the point can be made in another Amicus brief submitted by another association or individual?
[RA] Well, it is up to the legal experts whether or not it would be a good thing at this stage to introduce another Amicus but the issue of the state of necessity theory of defense was part of the legal process.
It was raised several times by the defense. It was very clearly elaborated on by defense attorney Paul McKenna. He insisted on that point several times which is why the defense insisted on bringing some very well-known terrorists from Miami as witnesses and some of them did take part in the process. The issue was not absent from the process. It was there. But it was absent in the instructions given to the jury by the judge. The jury should have been in a position to consider that question and to consider the entire process under that light. That fundamental question was not put to the jurors. That technical, legal aspect was the substance of the Amicus as I understand it. But the fact is that Cuba has been a victim of terrorism from the US for decades and there was a necessity for Cuba to defend itself and that was the role of the Five. This was raised time and again during the court proceedings.
The President of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón ended the interview by stressing the need to work so that the US puts an end to the abuse of the families and prisoners? rights regarding prison visits and so that eventually the five Cuban heroes are brought home.
This interview was presented by Bernie Dwyer and aired on Radio Havana Cuba Friday, 6th June 2003