The Habeas Corpus of Gerardo Hernandez

Fernando Ravsberg*

The photos of the five Cuban agents are part of the island’s landscape. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, officially expressed her concern over the lack of transparency and the legal procedures employed in the trials of five Cuban agents arrested in the US over a decade ago.

Apparently the prosecution and the judge played with cards up their sleeves by preventing the defense from having “access to all available evidence and documentary archives.” This was a violation of procedures so elementary that it even appears in TV series.

But the procedural mistakes don’t stop there. According to the UN rapporteur, the habeas corpus writ presented by the defense is being reviewed “by the same judge who was previously in charge of the case,” thereby making her the judge and the jury.

To top it all off, the hand of the US government can be seen in its pressuring of the courts for tougher sentences. Before and during the trial, several journalists in Miami received money to write articles against the five Cuban agents.

It really doesn’t seem legal for the executive branch to exert influence over the judiciary, nor is it very ethical for a journalist to agree to receive money from the government in exchange for writing articles to influence the outcome of an ongoing trial.

US attorney Martin Garbus says that between 1998-2001 an arsenal of propaganda was received by the Miami community through print, radio and television — paid for by the government — to interfere with the trail and to persuade the jury.

According to Garbus, fifteen journalists received money to write against the five agents. Apparently some received their funds secretly, with not even their media outlets knowing that they were working for another more generous employer. For this, one of the reporters was paid $175,000 USD.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) of the US government was forced to admit to the accusation when reporter Oscar Corral revealed that 50 of his colleagues in Florida were paid by government-funded Radio Marti for articles supporting the position of the US Department of State against Cuba.

The scandal was such that Jesus Diaz, the editor of the largest newspaper in Miami, fired several journalists claiming that the press can’t “ensure objectivity and integrity if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity, especially a government agency.”

Gerardo Hernandez

The head of the Cuban agents, Gerardo Hernandez, was sentenced to two life sentences. Photo: Taken from Cubadebate

Despite the harsh words of the editor, this lack of ethics and professionalism seem not to have been considered too serious because a few months later several of those journalists returned to their old jobs, writing as if nothing had ever happened.

Certainly, there have been so many legal and ethical anomalies that make it seem logical for UN Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul to look askance at the independence of the judges in this case. Just the same, one would have expected such occurrences given the place where the trial was held.

Miami is a city where Cuban exiles have enormous political, economic and media power. It was highly unlikely to obtain a fair verdict in relation to these five agents who confessed to monitoring and reporting to Cuba on the activities of [terrorist figures] within that same community.

The atmosphere in Miami surpasses even their hatred of Fidel Castro and extends to citizens who live on the island. In the largest newspaper in the city diatribes appear ensuring that any relaxation of tensions “will have to be built by the submissive Cubans living on the island.”

The island’s residents are described as “those who have endured everything, who collaborated with everything, who have beaten Cuban dissidents, those who have betrayed their compatriots, who have tortured them, who have thrown them into the sea, and who have spent fifty years filling Fidel’s Revolution Square applauding and sniffing his ass.”

But it seems that the natural environment of that city wasn’t enough for Washington, so they decided that their official information apparatus would “burn up” hundreds of thousands of dollars to further inflame the situation and create a bonfire through the press.

In such an environment, Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two life sentences, ensuring that he would remain behind bars even if reincarnated in another life. Now his defense is demanding a fair trial in an unbiased city and without pressure from governmental or media campaigns.

The issue is worrisome even to the United Nations, because — as American lawyer Martin Garbus has expressed — “every dollar for every article, photo or radio or television program that was spent on this secret program violated the integrity of the trial.”
(*) An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.


7 thoughts on “The Habeas Corpus of Gerardo Hernandez

  • Lawrence W!! I provided a document with references! Will you?? Typical Castro sympathizer to start to defaming the messenger and start the insults!

    Cuban Espionage Targets the U.S. Government – Vanessa Lopez is a Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.
    Some of these attempts became public knowledge with the dismantling of the Wasp Network in Florida, the trial of the five Cuban spies known as “the Cuban Five,” and the testimony of the other five Cuban agents captured in conjunction with “the Cuban Five” that made plea deals in 1998. It was revealed that Cuban agent Nilo Hernandez monitored movements at the Homestead Air Force Base and reported findings to Cuba. As instructed, Antonio Guerrero obtained a job at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, FL as a maintenance man and collected visual military intelligence for Cuba. Other military installations that the Wasp Network was ordered to infiltrate include U.S. Southern Command and MacDill Air Force Base. (17) In 2001, “The Cuban Five” were tried and received varying sentences. Hernandez received two life terms, Labanino and Guerrero received life in prison, Fernando Gonzales received 19 years, and Rene Gonzales received 15 years. However, after numerous motions of appeal, Labanino’s sentence was reduced to 30 years, Guerrero’s to 22 years, and Fernando Gonzalez’s to 18 years. The sentences of the other five spies whom pled guilty ranged between three and seven years. (18)

  • ‘Humberto’ asks if news from publicly-funded media like PBS and Public Radio taint trials in the US? Of course it would IF government funds were provided specifically to influence trial results and if said funds were provided clandestinely for this purpose. Unacknowledged US Government propaganda in US media, of course, is a regular occurrence. The New York Times, justifying itself as the “newspaper of record” for the country is a notorious funnel for the government, virtually reprinting entire Pentagon press releases under a reporter’s by-line.

    In addition to logic, ‘Humberto’ is challenged as well in the maths department, wondering why five and not 12, despite unknowingly providing us with the answer – the five are the ones “who maintained their innocence”!

    The document link ‘Humberto’ provides is an interesting one, albeit from a completely prejudiced, unidentified source – the US GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF NATIONAL COUNTERINTELLIGENCE!!! Holy smokes, Batman, ‘Humberto’ is feeding us US government propaganda! Do you think he knows?

    The propaganda is typical – no outright lying, just selective information. Comments here have actually filled in some of the blanks. The document starts with “In 1995, after obtaining FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court approval, the FBI obtained warrants to surreptitiously search apartments and monitor telephone communications by a group of Cubans who were Cuban intelligence operatives… During the searches, the FBI uncovered and read the contents of the communications from and to the Cuban Government.”

    There is no mention of WHY the FBI obtained the search warrant. It fits nicely with the knowledge that the Cubans told them what they were doing and the FBI was only collecting evidence to use against them. So much for the vaunted prowess of the G-men, decidedly junior in this instance.

    There is much more the document doen’t tell us and thus tells us about its propagandistic nature that we can discuss if ‘Humberto’ chooses to pursue the matter.

  • How come all the supporters of the “Cuban 5” need help with math? And does news from PBS and Public Radio taint trial in the US? They get money from the government!

    Not “5” but 12 : The “Five Cuban Heroes” proclaimed by the Cuban regime were actually part of a network of 12 spies that infiltrated the U.S. In addition to the five spies who maintained their innocence but were convicted in a jury trial (with no Cuban-American jurors), five pleaded guilty to charges of spying in exchange for reduced sentences, one was deported, and one fled to Cuba to escape arrest. The trials cost U.S. taxpayers
    one million dollars to provide the defendants with a free legal representation.



  • In the (naive) hope that the American government would abide by international law, the Cuban goverment informed the American authorities about the terrorist attacks planned by the Miami mafia against tourist facilties and illegal overflights of Cuban territory; hence, the F.B.I., C.I.A., etc. were able to focus in on the sources of this information. The sentences, of course, are totally unjust, and just reveal, to all knowlegable people, the double standard duplicitousness of the American government. Then again, I’m under no illusion that “justice,” as Alan Price croons in the film, “O Lucky Man,” has ever equaled anything but money and power!

  • You should rather write an articel about the independence of judges, lawyers and the political prisoners in Cuba.

  • Muchas Gracias to the Havana Times and Fernando Ravsberg for this article about the Cuban Five and the politicized atmosphere during their trial. These men are not the only political prisoners in the United States, but they are unique in that they are not citizens of the US, and their trial was public. Perhaps that is accounted for in that it pre-dated 9/11/2001, and the Guantanamo Gulag was not yet established.

    Today President Obama could have resolved the problem by launching a few Drones…

Comments are closed.