Max Lesnick, a leader of Alianza Martiana, an organization opposed to Washington’s economic war on Cuba, said that many of those present and other partisans of the campaign to free the five Cuban patriots had paid for a plane trailing a banner demanding, "Free the Cuban 5; The real terrorists are on Calle 8 today."
The plane had flown over a demonstration of more than 5,000 people organized by counterrevolutionary Cuban-American groups in Miami the day before. The right-wing rally was called to condemn the Cuban government and to support Washington’s assault on Iraq. Many called for Havana to be targeted next after Baghdad.
The terrorists referred to in the Alianza Martiana banner are counterrevolutionary groups that have a decades-long history of launching violent attacks on Cuba from U.S. soil, particularly Miami, with Washington’s complicity. The five Cuban revolutionaries were in the United States to collect information about the activities of these groups.
The FBI, which arrested the five in 1998, was unable to prove they committed any illegal acts. Instead, the five men were convicted on a series of conspiracy charges, including conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, to commit espionage for Havana, and to commit murder. They were given prison sentences ranging from 15 years to a double-life term. In an attempt to isolate them, Washington sent them to five different penitentiaries thousands of miles apart from each other.
A few weeks before the deadline for the five to file appeals of their convictions, the Justice Department implemented Special Administrative Measures placing them under severe restrictions, including solitary confinement with no access to any reading or printed material. Their lawyers were notified in writing that they would be in isolation for a year, which could be renewed. At least one was denied access to his attorney.
Hernández, who has been given the harshest sentence, a double-life term, was held in the worst conditions--in "The Box," a hole within the "hole" of the maximum security penitentiary in Lompoc, California. He was thrown into a room where he could only walk three steps. He was forced to wear only underpants and a shirt. He spent his last week trying to plug a leak in the ceiling from a toilet above his cell. His complaints to the prison’s medical services were ignored.
Defenders of the five across the United States and elsewhere organized a month-long campaign of letter writing and other activities demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons remove the five men from the hole.
On April 1, it was officially confirmed that all five had been released from solitary confinement.
A statement from Cuba’s National Assembly released that day, said, "It has been demonstrated that during a month, the government of the United States violated the rights of the prisoners, of their lawyers, and the norms of due process, seriously damaging the appeal process. Taking them now out of ‘the hole,’ the U.S. government is proving that [there] never existed a ‘national security’ justification and that it was obliged to go back because of the denunciations and protests."
Washington claimed that the five were removed from the general prison population, and had their visitation rights cut off, because they were a potential threat to "national security." U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft sent an order to the Federal Bureau of Prisons alleging that the contact the five have maintained, by mail or in person, with other people could result in the unauthorized disclosure of information that "could pose a threat to the national security of the United States." The order was supposed to last for a year and could have been extended at any time by the attorney general.
"The U.S. government has not finished yet with its arbitrary, discriminatory and illegal actions," the Cuban National Assembly statement continued. "It still maintains inadmissible prohibitions related to the use of the phone, the correspondence, the consular access, and the family visits, that should be completely lifted....
"The government of the United States in March 2003 has repeated the methods and techniques it used earlier to prevent a fair trial--that is precisely the principal question that the Atlanta Appeals Court should consider. That is the best proof to demonstrate that the Court should dismiss the Miami farce and order the release of the five prisoners."
The defense team for the five was planning to file appeals of their convictions at a hearing of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta April 7.
Leonard Weinglass, lawyer for Antonio Guerrero and part of the overall legal defense for the five, however, requested a 30-day extension because it was impossible for the defense to organize necessary collaboration with their clients over the last month.
In an April 4 interview with Radio Havana, Weinglass reported that Antonio Guerrero "did tell me that the three letters he wrote to me while he was detained in isolation have today been returned to him. They were not delivered despite the fact that the U.S. attorney promised me that legal mail rights were fully restored. They were not because he never got my letters, either." Weinglass also said that prison authorities had just handed Guerrero a box of 200 letters sent to him while in solitary confinement.
"I am now examining the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the government for the mistreatment of the five," Weinglass told Radio Havana, "and the lack of justification or reason for putting them under such horrendous conditions."
The statement from Cuba’s National Assembly called for intensified work on their behalf. "It is necessary to multiply and intensify the solidarity, now that we have this additional proof about the serious misconduct of the U.S. government," it said. "Solidarity took them out of ‘the hole.’ Solidarity will free them."
Letters of solidarity and books or other printed materials for the five Cuban patriots can be sent to the addresses below.
Write to the five Cuban revolutionaries
René González, Reg. #58738-004, P.O. Box 725, FCI Edgefield, Edgefield, South Carolina 29824
Antonio Guerrero, Reg. #58741-004, USP Florence, P.O. Box 7500, Florence, Colorado 81226
Gerardo Hernández (Manuel Viramontes), Reg. #58739-004, USP Lompoc, 3901 Klein Blvd., Lompoc, California 93436
Fernando González (Rubén Campa), Reg. #58733-004, FCI Oxford, P.O. Box 1000, Oxford, Wisconsin 53952-0505
Ramón Labañino (Luis Medina), Reg. #58734-004, USP Beaumont, P.O. Box 26030, Beaumont, Texas 77720-6035