Friday, November 26, 2010
Symposium on the Five Cubans held in Holguin
The Sixth International Symposium for the Release of the Cuban Five and against Terrorism was held last week in Holguin with some 330 delegates participating from 56 countries.
This year marked the event’s largest participation since it was first held in 2005. Social activists, members of Cuban friendship associations, leaders of national and international committees for freedom for the Cuban Five, political representatives, union and youth leaders, lawyers and other professionals, were among participants in the event.
In our country there are several people, businesses, economic activities that have been the victim of terrorism, of the US blockade and the injustice committed against the Cuban Five and their relatives, this is why that although Holguin was the epicenter of this gathering, all of Cuba was also part of the symposium.
The event took place at the Holguin Expo Fairgrounds and begans with a meeting with the foreign delegations, followed by an interactive internet forum with relatives of the Cuban Five.
As has become a tradition, the symposium was extended to the Holguin municipalities of Calixto Garci¬a, Gibara, Rafael Freyre and Banes.
The misguided arrest of the Cuban Five in 1998 and the subsequent travesty of justice lead to their convictions on multiple unsubstantiated charges in 2001. The Cuban Five were dedicated to uncovering plots by ultra-rightwing Cuban-American organizations based in Miami with a long record of terrorist actions against Cuba and the Cuban people.
In a trial plagued with irregularities and held in a highly biased Miami court, the Cuban Five —Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez— were given harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to consecutive life terms plus 15 years. The five Cubans were working to uncover information about terrorist activities being planned and carried out against Cuba by ultra-rightwing organizations based in southern Florida with a long record of terrorist actions against Cuba and the Cuban people. When they turned their information over to authorities they were arrested and have been in jail ever since.
A UN Working Group reviewing the case determined that the trial did not take place in a climate of objectivity and impartiality, which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial. The UN report also charges that the Cuban Five were wrongfully held for seventeen months in solitary confinement after their arrest, and that their lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to examine all of the available evidence before the government invoked the Classified Information Protection Act.
Shortly following the UN ruling, on August 9, 2005, a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta issued a 93-page reversal of the initial conviction as well as nullified the sentences. In response to the reversal, the Bush administration and Attorney General Gonzales vehemently pushed for the US Solicitor General to appeal the verdict of the three-judge panel’s decision before all twelve judges of the 11th circuit in Atlanta. This time the court bowed down to pressure from the Bush administration and reversed the previous pro-Cuban Five ruling by a vote of 10-2.
In 2008, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of all five prisoners, but ruled that the sentences handed down to Labañino, Guerrero, and Fernando Gonzalez were excessive. Subsequently their sentences were slightly reduced.