Black Activists and Allies Ask President Obama To Free the Cuban Five
The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are in U.S. prisons serving two life sentences and 96 years, collectively, after being wrongly convicted in the U.S. federal district court in Miami on June 8, 200l. The Cuban Five were accused by the US government of committing espionage consipracy aganist the US and other related changes. However, as the Five argued at their trial. they were only engaged in monitoring the actions of Miami-based anti-Cuba terrorist groups in order to prevent terroist attacks against Cuba. For more than 40 years, anti-Cuban terrorists groups based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist actions against Cuba and against anyone who advocates normalization of relations between the US and Cuba. As a result of these actions, more than 3,000 Cubans have died. The Cuban Five's activities were never directed at the US government. The following open letter by African American, authored by long time activists, Joan P. Gibbs, Esq. and Rosemari Mealy, JD, Ph.D., has been endorsed by over a 100 activists from throughout the United States and around the world.
Greetings. We write to urge you to free Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, René González Sehwerert, Fernando González Llort and Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, collectively and popularly known as the Cuban 5. As a Professor of Constitutional Law and a student of the African American civil rights movement, we trust that you will appreciate that the trial, convictions, sentencing and continued imprisonment of the Cuban Five makes a mockery of the United States Constitution guarantee of due process of law, particularly the right to a fair trial. Like the defendants in Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86 (1935), the Scottsboro Nine and countless other, known and unknown Black activists, tried in the South during the Jim Crow era, the Cuban Five were compelled to stand trial in a city and before a jury pervasively infected with political hatred and prejudice against supporters of the Cuban government.
Time and time again, the Supreme Court has reiterated that: “A fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement of due process,” requiring not only “absence of actual bias,” but also an effort to “prevent even the probability of unfairness.” Over their objections, the Cuban Five’s trial was held in Miami, Florida, a city infamous as home to the most virulent and violent anti-Cuban organizations and activists in the United States. From their arrest throughout their trial, local newspapers and the airwaves, carried nearly daily reports by journalists proclaiming the Cuban Five’s guilt and linking them to plots as horrific as they were fictional. Even more egregiously, it has recently been revealed that many of the journalists who authored these reports were in the employ of the United States government.
Moreover, during the time of the pre-trial and trial proceedings for the Cuban Five, Miami was also the site of several other high profile legal proceedings and events that generated massive publicity unfavorable to the Cuban Five, among them a city county-ban on doing business with Cuba, the arrest of a United States Immigration agent, Mariano Faget, who was accused of spying for Cuba, and most infamously the Elian Gonzalez case.
Indeed, the atmosphere was such that the United States in Ramirez v. Ashcroft, No. 01-cv-4835 (S.D. Fla.) moved for a change of venue “outside of Miami Dade County to ensure that . . . . [then U.S. Attorney Ashcroft] . . . receive a fair trial on the merits of the case. “ In Ramirez, the plaintiff, an INS employee, alleged a hostile work environment, unlawful retaliation and intimidation from his non-Latino fellow employees’ resulting from the April 22, 2002 removal of Elian Gonzalez from the United States and his return to his father in Cuba. In support of its motion for a change of venue, the government argued: “the inhabitants of Miami-Dade-County are so infected by knowledge of the incident and accompanying prejudice, bias, and preconceived opinions that jurors could not possibly put these matters out of their minds and try the instant case solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom.”
Similar to the ten Russian spies arrested in 2010, who were almost immediately deported from the United States rather than tried, the Cuban Five were in essence accused of various offenses relating to their acting as unregistered Cuban intelligence agents within the United States. No evidence was presented and none exists that the Cuban Five ever intended to or had posed a threat to the national security of the United States. In fact, their primary concern was uncovering and disrupting the activities of anti-Cuban terrorist groups such as Alpha 66, the Ex Club and Commandos L. Alpha 66, for example, was involved in terrorist attacks on Cuban hotels in 1992, 1994 and 1995, attempted to smuggle hand grenades into Cuba in March 1993 and issued death threats against Cuban tourists and installations in November 1993. In 1997, members of Alpha 66 were intercepted on their way to assassinate former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Cuba had advised the United States of the activities of Alpa 66 as well as of other groups and asked that the United States take actions against them to no avail.
The Cuban Five are not only Heroes in Cuba but to millions of people around the world, including many in the United States, for their contributions impeding the now more than fifty year long campaign of terror against the government and people of Cuba, as indicated by the over 100 people who endorsed this letter. As a result of the campaign of terror against Cuba conducted by Alpha 66 and other anti-Cuban groups more than 3,478 Cubans have been murdered and 2,099 seriously injured during the decades since the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
The Cuban Five have now been in prison since 1998. Thirteen years is long enough. We strongly urge you to exercise your power pursuant to Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution to pardon or commute the sentences of the Cuban Five. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this letter. We await your response.
Joan P. Gibbs, Esq, ,National Conference of Black Lawyers, New York City Chapter*
Rosemari Mealy, JD, Ph. D., Author, Fidel and Malcolm X
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