Atlanta and the Cuban Five, A Long March Towards Justice

Atlanta and the Cuban Five, A Long March Towards Justice

Published by Editora Politica (Havana) in 2005, 98 pages. (S5262YWSO)

This book charts the case of five Cuban men that are languishing in American prisons, after having been found guilty of what many regard as trumped up charges and an unfair trial that makes a mockery of US Justice......

Since the Cuban Revolution, when Fidel Castro and his popular uprising overthrew the US backed regime of Batista, the American Government has pursued an aggressive policy of opposition to Cuba, which is perhaps best typified in their continued economic embrago of the island, which every single country of the United Nations has repeatedly condemned (save for 3 - the USA, Israel, and a tiny pacific Island)

But American oppposition to Cuba has also been more overt - either through direct military action (such as the failed invasion in the early 1960's) and backing for US-based counterrevolutionary exile groups. In 2001 the Cuban government claimed over 3,000 people had been murdered as a result of terrorism by the American Government and the US based anti-Castro groups they support - events that have included attacks such as the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 by CIA trained terrorists. As a result, the Cuban government has long sought to combat these groups, in addition to trying to garner support in the US to combat terrotists. Several years ago the Cuban Government provided 175 pages of documents to FBI agents investigating the 1997 bombings in Havana, but the FBI failed to use the evidence to arrest those reponsible, who were openly living in the US. Instead, they used it to arrest cubans working for the Cuban Government in the US combatting what they perceived as terrorism

Among the men the US Government were five arrested in Miami, Florida, in September 1998. They were indicted by the US government on 25 different counts, including charges of false identification and espionage. Seven months later, an additional indictment was added for one man - conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shooting down of a US backed Anti-Castro organisation aircraft (with 4 deaths), which had illegally entered Cuban air space.

Records show that from their time of arrest the five men spent 17 months in solitary confinement. Further reports suggest that evidence that belonged to the defendants themselves (and which included such things as letters, papers and personal correspondence) was classified as secret by the US authorities, and which thus prevented the defendants and their attorneys access to them

The trial, beginning in November 2000, went on for seven months, although jury deliberations lasted a few hours. In June 2001, the group was convicted of all 26 counts in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, including the charge of first-degree murder against Gerardo Hernandez. The irony was that the prosecution had applied to withdraw the murder charge, because jury instructions specified that the murder charge required that the deaths occurred within US jurisdiction. The prosecution had been unable to prove this, and so applied for an emergency writ that the jury instructions should exclude any reference to jurisdiction. When this application failed the prosecution realised the charge could not be legally proved, and so tried to withdraw it rather than see a not-guilty verdict. The prosecution needn't have worried - the Miami based jury ignored the law and found him guilty anyway!

It was clear to many observers that the five men had not received a fair trial. After the arrests, motions by the defense for a change of venue, on the basis that Miami was a venue too associated with exile Cubans, were denied. The jury did not include any Cuban-Americans but around 10% of the jury pool "knew the victims of the shooting down or knew trial witnesses who had flown with them." Yet less than a year later, an application to change venue for the same reason was granted by the same court in an employment case with a Cuban connection. As a result the Five applied for annulment of the trial and a change of venue for a retrial; the motion was denied.

On August 9, 2005, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta unanimously overturned the convictions and sentences of the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial outside of Miami, saying that the Cuban exile community and the trial publicity made the trial unfavorable and prejudicial to the defendants.

However, on October 31, 2005 the Atlanta court agreed to a US government request to review the decision, and in August 2006 the ruling for a new trial was reversed by a 10-2 vote of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. Three years later a 3-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the "Five", despite finding that the sentencing judge had made six serious errors!

The Cuban Government has of course always maintained that the five men did not received a fair trial. But this view is not limited to the Cuban government alone. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights wrote 'that it arises from the facts and circumstances in which the trial took place and from the nature of the charges and the harsh sentences handed down to the accused that the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality that is required in order to conform to the standards of a fair trial'. Amnesty International has criticized the US treatment of the Cuban Five as human rights violations, arguing that the five men did not receive a fair trial, and here in the UK over 100 MP's wrote an open letter to the US Government in support of the Five men.

Condition of the book is generally good. The cover has some minor scuffs, blemishes and creases, and some light nibbling along the edges, but the spine is intact and all pages are intact, unblemished and tightly bound.

Condition New