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September 12, 1998: At 5:30 am, in an operation against an alleged network of spies, the Federal Bureau of Investigations arrests 10 Cubans, among them René González Sehwerert, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez), Luis Medina ( real name Ramón Labañino Salazar), Rubén Campa ( real name Fernando Gonzalez Llort), and Manuel Viramontes ( real name Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo). They are taken to the FBI’s general headquarters in Miami in an attempt convince them to betray their country and collaborate with the FBI in exchange for certain promises, pressures and blackmail. After various failed attempts, they are taken by car to the FDC (Federal Detention Center) in the heart of downtown Miami. There they are locked in punishment cells for 17 months.
Judge Joan A. Lenard is assigned to preside over the case.
October 2, 1998: The charges against the accused are presented in court, 26 in all. All are accused of:
- Acting as an agent of a foreign government without duly notifying the Attorney General.
- Conspiracy to defraud the government of the United States.
In addition the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage is levied against Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar y Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez.
September-October 1998: In exchange for a drastic reduction in their sentences, the other five accused admit their guilt and agree to cooperate with the prosecution.
May 7, 1999: After many meetings with representatives of the Cuban-American terrorist groups, the prosecutors amend the charges. Without any new evidence, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo is accused of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shooting down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes north of Cuba in February 1996.
February 2000: After several appeals to the court, confinement of the prisoners in “the hole” is ended and the accused are transferred to general population in the prison.
July 27, 2000: After multiple motions for the trial to be held outside of Miami, Judge Joan A. Lenard rules against a change of venue. With this ruling the fate of the accused is sealed.
November 27, 2000: The trial begins with jury selection.
June 8, 2001: Conclusion of the rigged trial against the five who daily risked their lives to discover and report the terrorist plans against the Cuban people by the anti-Cuban groups with the tolerance and complicity of the United States authorities. They are all declared guilty of the false and infamous accusations in the Miami tribunal.
June 26, 2001: The five compatriots are once again thrown into the “hole” in retaliation
for an open letter to the North American people in which they explain the reasons for their mission in the United States. This letter coincided with the visit by the Attorney General to meet with anti-Cuban leaders in Miami. The Five were kept in these cruel conditions for 48 days.
December 11-12, 2001: At 9:00 a.m. the sentencing hearing takes place. The Judge rejects all motions and arguments presented by the defense on the previous day. In the afternoon is the sentencing of Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, whom the Prosecutor obsessively attacks.. Gerardo was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
December 12, 2001: Ramón Labañino Salazar’s sentencing hearing is held. Once the pre-sentencing charges and his defense attorney’s arguments were heard he was finally sentenced to life in prison plus 18 years.
December 14, 2001: René González Sehwerert’s sentencing hearing is held, condemning him to 15 years in prison, the máximum posible for the chages of which he’d been convicted.
December 17-18, 2001: Fernando González Llort’s sentencing hearing is held, condemning him to 19 years in prison, the maximum penalty for the three main charges: conspiracy, possession and use of false documents and the illegal use of false identity documents, in addition to being an undeclared foreign agent.
December 27, 2001: Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez’ sentencing hearing is held in which he is condemned to life in prison plus 10 years, the maximum penalty for the charges of conspiracy, conspiracy to commit espionage, and being an undeclared foreign agent.
April 7, 2003: The defense attorneys present their case to the 11th Circuit of the Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
At the same time the case is presented to the United Nations by their families.
May 25, 2005: The United Nations Group on Arbitrary Detentions issues its opinion No. 19/2005 (United States of America) in which the detention of the five Cubans is declared arbitrary and calls on the United States government to put an end to this situation.
August 9, 2005: A 3 judge panel of the Appellate Court reversed the guilty verdicts of the five men, considering that they did not have a fair trial in Miami. In an unusual action the Government called for a rehearing of the Appellate Court decision by the full court in a procedure known as en banc.
August 9, 2006: With a strong dissent by two of the three original judges, the full Court revoked by majority the decision of the three original judges.
September 16, 2008: The Atlanta Court of Appeals ratified the guilty verdicts of the Five. It ratified the sentences of Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, and nullified those of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Ramon Labanino, considering those sentences incorrect and sending them back to the Miami District Court for re-sentencing.
THE SUPREME COURT
The case is presented to the Supreme Court along with 12 amicus [friends of the court] briefs. [See attached document].
June 15, 2009: The United States Supreme Court announced, with no explanation, its decision to not review the case of the Five Cubans despite the solid arguments presented by the defense attorneys regarding the evident and multiple legal violations committed during the entire process.
The Court also discounted the universal backing of this petition and of the Five, expressed in the 12 “friends of the court” documents, an unprecedented number of amicus briefs, greater than the number of such briefs ever presented to the Supreme Court seeking the review of a legal procedure.
Friends of the Court presented documents supporting the petition for judicial review by the Supreme Court.
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief by Nobel Prize Winners Jose Ramoshorta, Wole Soyinka, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nadine Gordimer, Rigoberta Menchu, Jose Saramago, Shores Alferov, Dario Fo, Gunter Grass and Mairead Corrigan Maguire.
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of Cuban-American Scholars, et al.
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of Ibero-
- American Federation of Ombudsmen, et al.
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of National Jury Project
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of William C. Velsaques Institute and the Mexican American Political Association
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of National Lawyers Guild and National Conference of Black Lawyers
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of The Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, et al.
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers-Miami Chapter
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of Center for International Policy and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
- 03/06/2009: Amicus brief of Senate of the United Mexican States, et al.
On October 13, 2009 the hearing took place in the District Court of Miami to re-sentence Antonio Guerrero. In the course of this the same Judge who in December 2001 had imposed the sentence of life imprisonment plus ten years was obliged to admit that in the case of Antonio there was no evidence that he had obtained or transmitted secret information. Nevertheless she imposed the unjust sentence of 21 years and ten months in prison, plus 5 years of probation.
On December 8 Fernando Gonzalez and Ramon Labanino were re-sentenced. Fernando’s original sentence (19 years) was modified to 17 years and 9 months in prison, while Ramon’s (life plus 18 years) was reduced to 30 years in prison.
Gerardo Hernandez The court of Appeals ratified his sentence of 2 life terms plus 15 years
Ramon Labanino The Appeals Court nullified his sentence. On December 8, 2009 he was re-sentenced to 30 years.
Antonio Guerrero The Appellate Court nullified his sentence. On October 13, 2009 he was re-sentenced to 21 years and 10 months.
Fernando González The Appeals Court nullified his sentence. On December 8, 2009 he was re-sentenced to 17 years and 9 months. He completed this sentence and was deported to Cuba.
René González The Appellate Court ratified his sentence: 15 years. He served this entire sentence plus a year and a half of supervised release (parole). He renounced his US citizenship in order to return permanently to Cuba to be with his family.
On June 14, 2010 the collateral appeal (also known as Habeas Corpus or 2255) on behalf of Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo was presented to the Federal Court in Miami. This is the last legal recourse for him within the United States’ system.
The presentation questions all aspects of the conviction and sentencing of Hernandez. It focuses primarily on two points.
First, the most serious charge against Hernandez – conspiracy to commit murder – lacks any basis in fact. The charge is related to the shooting down of the two planes of Brothers to the Rescue. The evidence is overwhelming that Hernandez had nothing to do with the bringing down of the planes and that Cuba’s intention of halting the illegal flights over its territory was consistent with international law.
Second, the trial – carried out in Miami, the US city most hostile to the Cuban government – was essentially unjust because the jury was contaminated by propaganda financed by the US government. After the trial it was discovered that the US government paid reporters based in Miami to give ample coverage to the trial and to report in the local print, radio and television media, reaffirming the guilt of the Five and promoting fear and prejudice in the community. These reporters also hounded members of the jury, provoking protests by them and by the judge.
Also included were the violations committed by the government through the manipulation of evidence, its falsification and in more than a few cases the hiding of evidence to obstruct justice, and other aspects of a technical nature affecting the exercise of the defense.
It is now in the hands of the District Court to accept these motions or not.
In December 2010 Amnesty International, in its yearly report for 2010, document –USA the case of the Cuban Five, denounced legal and human rights violations committed in the case and called on the US government to resolve them