The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a non-governmental organization of jurists with national affiliates on all continents, and in consultative status with ECOSOC, issues this statement to express its findings regarding the June 4, 2008 opinion of the panel of 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in the Cuban 5 case. These five men, Fernando Gonzalez, (aka Ruben Campa), Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramon Labanino (aka Luis Medina), came to Miami to monitor the right wing anti-Cuban activities of many groups hostile to Cuba, with the main purpose of trying to prevent acts of terrorism against the Cuban people. These five men were prosecuted, not just for the crime of failing to register as foreign agents, but for conspiracy to commit espionage, with Gerardo Hernandez charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shoot down of several planes of a right wing group known as “Brothers to the Rescue”. They have been in prison for almost 10 years, and fighting in the Courts for justice.
IADL has consistently claimed that the prosecution of these five was illegitimate and politically motivated–designed mainly to placate the Cuban community in Miami which has engaged in many hostile and terrorist acts against the Cuban people, as well as to carry on the United States’ campaign to isolate and harm the Cuban people.
IADL believes the original prosecution of these men is the height of hypocrisy, especially in light of the government’s protection of known terrorist Luis Posada Carrilles. IADL supported the original opinion of the panel of Judges in August 2005 who found that the defendants did not get a fair trial in Miami, given the prejudice and fear generated against them in the Miami community. IADL condemned the decision of the full 11th Circuit which overturned that decision.
IADL sent representatives to the hearing before the panel on August 20, 2007 to hear the oral arguments on the appeal issues which had not been dealt with in the first appeal, to wit the rulings on: the failure to suppress evidence from searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, sovereign immunity, discovery procedures, jury selection, prosecutorial and witness misconduct, jury instructions, and sufficiency of the evidence to support their convictions, and sentencing. The representatives of IADL joined a large delegation of international observers at the hearing in August 2007.
The Court rejected the claims made by the defendants and unanimously upheld the convictions of 4 of the 5 and split 2-1 on the conviction of Gerardo Hernandez on the conspiracy to commit murder. The panel did vacate the life sentences of Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino, and the 19 year sentence of Fernando Gonzalez, on the grounds that they did not gather or transmit top secret information. Their cases have been remanded to the District Court for re-sentencing.
The decision of the panel to uphold these convictions based on a record of prosecutorial and witness statements which inflamed the jury is a travesty of justice. Because this case deals with Cubans who opposed the actions of some in the exile community it is, of necessity, politically motivated. As agents of the Cuban government who were not involved whatsoever in spying on the United States government but only on groups in the Cuban exile community, they should have been deported rather than tried and sentenced to such long terms.
Whatever steps are taken by the defendants from this time forward IADL will continue to support the five and maintain that they did not get a fair trial.
IADL further calls on all of its members and others in the legal community to condemn the decision and to take actions seeking the release of these five men.
Jitendra Sharma,President, IADL, Jeanne Mirer,Secretary General,
June 6, 2008