Elio Delgado Legón
HAVANA TIMES — In my previous post about the Cuban anti-terrorist activists serving long prison sentences in the United States for the sole reason of monitoring terrorist organizations which were preparing to carry out violent actions against Cuba, I stated that the Five (as these activists are known) were the victims of innumerable legal irregularities and violations and that I would enumerate these in another post.
This is what I will try to do now, though, given the limited space available for my post, I might not be able to offer an exhaustive list of these incidents.
One of the main decisions in violation of U.S. law – the Fifth and Sixth Amendments and international law, specifically – was that of holding the trial in Miami, where these terrorist organizations have control over the justice system and make just and impartial proceedings impossible.
This fact was denounced on several occasions by the defense, who requested a change of venue – a request which was denied.
Defense attorneys had access to only 20 percent of the case documents, something which seriously hampered their work. In addition, they were constantly denied the possibility of meeting with the detainees in order to adequately prepare their defense.
The prosecution, aware that it could not prove the charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree brought against Gerardo Hernandez, asked the court to disregard these charges.
The jury, however, declared Hernandez guilty of this crime and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment, an extraordinary decision that had never before been seen in a lawful trial.
With respect to the charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, not one shred of evidence proving these men had obtained secret U.S. government information was presented.
During the trial, numerous military officers, including two generals, an admiral and colonel testified that the accused had not had access to classified information.
A former head of the Pentagon’s Intelligence Agency even declared, as a witness of the prosecution, that the accused had not conducted espionage in the United States. The Five were, nonetheless, declared guilty of this.
Another serious charge brought against the Five was that of conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States. Though the defense proved that these men were only after information on terrorist groups based in south Florida, not anything that could put the country’s national security at risk, the jury declared them guilty of this crime.
Another flagrant violation of U.S. law was keeping the accused in solitary confinement cells for 17 months. The law establishes that inmates may be kept in such cells for a maximum of 60 days, and only for cases of grave indiscipline.
Numerous human rights violations have been committed in the course of the Cuban Five’s incarceration, such as preventing family visits and even denying two wives the right to see their spouses in prison on repeated occasions.
Defense attorneys and Cuban consular officers have also met with obstacles in their attempts to visit the men in prison, a fact that violates U.S. and international law.
Yet another measure against the Cuban Five in violation of U.S. law is the fact they were treated as common criminals. This violates Article 8 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which states:
“The different categories of prisoners shall be kept in separate institutions or parts of institutions taking account of their sex, age, criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment.”
Ten years after their conviction, a number of documents came to light and revealed that the U.S. government paid numerous journalists from the Miami Herald, the New Herald, Diario Las Americas and several Miami radio and television broadcasters to lead a propaganda campaign against the accused throughout the duration of the trial, a clear and grave violation of the law.
During the trial, many of the individuals who take part in the preparation of terrorist actions against Cuba were sitting in the courtroom, looking directly at the members of the jury to bring pressures to bear upon them.
Outside of the courthouse, they would take down the license plates of jury members’ cars in order to intimidate them.
No one in their right mind would dare insist these men received a fair and impartial trial. The Five were convicted for political reasons, to cause Cuba more harm.
The president of the United States is duty-bound to free these political prisoners who were convicted at a trial fraught with irregularities, to rectify this situation which, because of the violations I have pointed out and many others I could not expound on, is a stain on the U.S. justice system.