GROUP CALLS FOR RELEASE OF CUBAN FIVE by Roxanne Escobales

08/08/06

Tomorrow it will be one year since an appeals court in Atlanta threw out the convictions of a group of men known as the Cuban Five. In 1998 they were charged with espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, among other things. Today they are still in US prisons and an advocacy group renewed calls for their release.

ACT: here a new trial is mandated… perfect storm of community sentiment… merged with improper prosecutorial sentiment

That was Gloria La Riva, the coordinator for the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five today reading a passage from the decision by a panel of judges who a year ago overturned the convictions of five Cuban men who were arrested in 1998 on 26 charges, including espionage. The five men said they’re agenda was anti-terrorism. They argued that they were working to smoke out groups intending to terrorise Cuba, groups like the Brothers to the Rescue which flew planes into Cuban airspace and were subsequently downed by Cuban forces.

At that time the 11th circuit Court of Appeals said the Cuban Five were entitled to a new hearing because the first one that took place in Miami was tainted with community bias against Cuba.

Roberto Gonzalez is a lawyer in Cuba and the brother of one of five men. He says the defense tried to get the trial moved out of Miami Dade County from the beginning.

ACT: Roberto Gonzalez/translator

Prosecutors for the government argued that the original trial had been fair and that no bias existed. But, as constitutional criminal law professor Peter Erlinder explains, in a different, civil case involving former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, the US Attorney’s office admitted that Miami may be a prejudicial community after all.

ACT:

So why are they still in prison? Well, the US government appealed the appeal decision, And because the court granted the US Attorney’s office this opportunity, the earlier appeal decision was, in legal terms, vacated. In plain English that means the original convictions were brought back to life until the appeals court issues its latest decision on whether or not the Cuban Five deserve a fresh hearing. And no one knows when that will be, although it could happen any day now.

But the advocacy group’s Gloria La Riva says the Cuban Five should not even be in prison at all.

ACT: Forget a rehearing… o.q. free them now, free the Cuban five.�

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five will hold a public forum and a march to the White House to demand the release of the men on September 23. For more information go to freethefive.org.

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