Declaration on the Cuban Five of the South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer
News from Cuba | Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Yesterday, Tuesday February 16, I met with relatives of the five Cuban political prisoners held in US jails for over 11 years. I have had firsthand experience of the drama these families are suffering. I was given the following information as confirmation of what I already had obtained.
On June 16th and 17th, 1998, the Cuban government invited two important FBI officials to hand them documents with evidences on dangerous activities done by several persons residing in Florida and seriously implicated in terrorist actions against Cuba. Up until now, none of them have been questioned by US authorities despite the evidence placed in the hands of the FBI.
Three months later, on September 12th, 1998, the FBI arrested five Cubans: Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and René González. Crime committed? That of infiltrating, at the risk of their own lives, the Cuban exile groups responsible for numerous violent actions which have put an end to the lives of many innocent people. Since 1959, terrorist actions against the Cuban people have resulted in 3,478 dead and have left 2,099 people permanently disabled.
After a legal process, presenting several legal violations, the five Cubans were sentenced, collectively, to four life sentences plus 77 years, for fighting terrorism. For over 11 years now, they have been imprisoned in 5 different maximum security prisons.
These five Cubans have been the victims of cruel and inhumane treatment. From day one of their arrests until February 3rd, 2000, i.e. for over 17 months, they have been in solitary confinement, with no contact with other prisoners or even guards.
On May 27th, 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention denounced the “arbitrary” detention of the Cuban five, stating that it was a violation of international norms and demanded a new trial.
On August 9th 2005, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, with 80 years of accumulated experience, unanimously decided to declare the original verdict null and requested a new trial.
On September 28th, 2005, the US government asked the full Court of Appeals, made up by twelve judges, to reconsider the decision of August 8th, 2005, a very uncommon action, according to US legal experts.
On August 9th, 2006, after strong political pressures, the Atlanta Court of Appeals reversed the decision by the three judges and sent the case once again to a panel.
On August 20th, 2007, the defense launched a new appeal process. In 2008, a panel formed by three judges from the Atlanta Court of Appeals ratified the guilty verdict for the five Cubans, confirming the sentences imposed against Gerardo and Rene and annulled the sentences for Ramon, Antonio and Fernando because they were considered incorrect, thus sending the cases of these three Cubans to the Miami District Court for re-sentencing.
On that occasion the Appeals Court in full acknowledged there was no evidence whatsoever on the obtainment or transmission of secret information or of a national defense nature.
In 2009, the US Supreme Court, based on a request by the Obama Administration, rejected the possibility of revising the case.
The statements made by the relatives of the five Cubans give proof of the psychological and moral torture they have been suffering in the hands of US legal authorities. Olga Salanueva, wife of René González, as well as Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández, have not been yet authorized to visit their love ones.
On June 25th, 2002, Adriana Pérez was finally granted a US visa to visit her husband in Los Angeles. But upon her arrival in the United States, she was detained by the FBI, interrogated for 11 hours and then expelled to Cuba without seeing Gerardo.
Adriana has not been able to see Gerardo for over 11 years and Olga has not seen Rene for over 10 years. Such a cruel act is unacceptable.
Now, after meeting the relatives of the five Cubans I have been able to assess the dignity and staunchness of the mothers and wives who have suffered, with striking strength of character this inhumane abuse for over a decade now.
I would like to add my voice to the petition for justice for these five innocent Cubans. I request President Obama for their immediate release. I appeal to citizens from all over the world: it is time to put an end to the torment these five Cubans and their relatives are suffering.
Havana, February 17th, 2010.