SPEECHES MADE BY LEONARD WEINGLASS, ATTORNEY FOR THE FIVE, AT OCTOBER 26 ANTI-WAR RALLY AND OCTOBER 19 NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD MEETING
Sarurday, October 26, 2002, Washington DC
Iím here to speak to you today about five Cuban men, who took up the struggle against terrorism directed at their country from the United States, and are now serving life sentences in Americaís prisons.
You might remember that the justification for the war in Afghanistan was that any country that hosts terrorists is as guilty as the terrorists themselves. For forty years this country has hosted a network of terrorism in Florida directed at Cuba; it has recruited them, trained them and armed them, and when Cuba repeatedly asked the United States, the host country, to rein in our terrorists, they were met with inaction, and so the Cuban sent a group of people here to monitor the activities of the terrorist network in Florida, and when they got too close, the FBI stepped in and arrested the five, and prosecuted them before the exiled community in Miami, and they were sentenced to life terms in prison.
Their case is now under appeal and needs your support. This case is more easily understood if you think of the case of Orlando Bosch, a member of that terrorist network, who planted a bomb on a Cubana airline in 1976, which exploded in midair, killing 73 people. Mr. Bosch applied for residence in the United States after that episode, and the Justice Department and the INS deemed him an undesirable person, pointed to 30 years of terrorist activity including the bombing, and asked that he be barred from entry in the United States. But Orlando Bosch had a friend in Florida, a young man who wanted to be governor: his name was Jeb Bush. He intervened with his father who was then the President of the United States, and George Bush Sr. overruled the Justice Department and the INS and granted Orlando Boschís residence in the United States. He now walks as a free man in Miami, Florida. He walks as a free man, while the five, who had no guns, no explosives, created no harm in the United States, did not involve themselves in any classified information here, did not interfere with national security, are serving life in maximum security prisons here in the United States.
The next time the Bush Administration moralizes about the war on terrorism, remember Orlando Bosch, and remember the Cuban five. Thank you.
Saturday, October 19, 2002, Pasadena, CA
Leonard Weinglass speech at the National Lawyers Guild Conference EN ESPAÑOL In talking to you over the last few days, I know there isnít a great deal known about this case. And it should be known. Itís one of the few cases that Iíve encountered that combines in a single case a history of injustice abroad with injustice at home. I know most of you are familiar with the forty-two year history of the United Statesí attempt to overthrow the revolution in Cuba. But I want to go back just to June of 1998.  After the first half-decade in the 1990's, Cuba, weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, was subjected to a series of attacks emanating from the United States. And the Cubans had frequently sought to provide the United States with information that it had pertaining to the terrorist network that existed in Miami, and from where these attacks were launched. Finally, in 1998, the United States sent the number two man in the FBI together with a delegation to Havana. They sat down with their Cuban counterparts, and they were given four large, loose-leaf volumes of information, each volume over three hundred pages in length. They were given two hours and forty minutes of videotapes and eight cassettes of audiotapes that had been compiled on the terrorist network that existed and was operating out of Miami. The FBI delegation told the Cubans, thanked them for the information, and told them they would get back to them in two weeks. The FBI did not get back to them.
Instead, within ninety days, they had rounded up a group of people in southern Florida known as the WASP network, who were gathering this information on the criminal activities on these groups in southern Florida, and they charged them with espionage in the United States for their work.
Five of them went on trial. The trial, as I mentioned, lasted seven months.
And at the conclusion of the trial, they were found guilty of all twenty-six counts against them. Three were sentenced to life and two were sentenced to respectively, I believe itís fifteen years, and I think nineteen years. Now, the question is immediately what were these charges, and how could these charges be sustained. The charges involved mainly complaints that these five Cubans failed to register as foreign agents.
Those counts each take a ten year sentence, but there were two large counts, which were the operative counts of the indictment: one count was a conspiracy to commit espionage, and the other count was a conspiracy, against one, to commit murder. I emphasize conspiracy because, as you know, and the Government argued this in writing in their papers, they donít have to prove espionage. Indeed, they conceded at the end of the trial that they did not prove espionage. They only have to prove, as you know in a conspiracy, that there was an agreement to commit espionage. And that is what they sought to convince a jury drawn from Miami, that, "Although we canít prove it, folks, there certainly must have been an agreement to do it."
On the second count against one of the five, which was charged as a conspiracy to commit murder, again, they said, "We only have to show that there was an agreement to commit murder." And what murder are they talking about? Are they talking about a murder that occurred in the United States?
The government said,"No, we have no proof that any of these five ever had guns, ever had explosives," they werenít here for that purpose, they were here to gather information on the terrorist network in the United States.
How did they say there was a conspiracy to commit murder? They pointed to a February 24, 1996 shootdown of two planes from Brothers To The Rescue, which occurred over Cuban waters. They said one of them must have been involved in the conspiracy to cause that shootdown because he had information that they believed that it was about to occur.
At the end of the case, after seven months of evidence, the Government took an emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, called the Writ of Prohibition, in which they said to the Eleventh Circuit, "We cannot prove the charge of murder if the Judge gives the instruction that she intends to give." The Eleventh Circuit rejected the Writ, the Judge gave the instruction, the Government said, "We have an insurmountable obstacle, we canít prove this," and this jury in Miami convicted just the same after the prosecutor conceded in a written paper that he didnít have proof. How did that happen? I think many of you know from the Elian Gonzales controversy something about the atmosphere in Miami. I though I knew, but I didnít know enough. I didnít know what Americaís Watch found in their 1994 investigation of Miami. Miami exists quite apart from the United States as a separate entity, in which everything revolves around a single political concept, and that concept is hostility, a deep ingrained hostility to anything involving Cuba or the Cuban government. And we did see that in the Elian Gonzales controversy.
The prosecutor, of course, placed this case in Miami, and the five went to trial essentially before the exile community. There are over 600,000 Cuban exiles in the Miami/Dade area. I just want to read to you briefly from a book, not my favorite book, but on this subject theyíre probably right, a book called "Cuba Confidential," which is a kind of a history of a series of scandals. This is what she had to say about Miami: "A Cuban American is the head of the Miami/Dade public university, the head of the community college system, the stateís attorney, the county police chief, the fire chief, the mayor of Miami, the publisher of the Miami Herald, the presiding partner of the largest law firm, the superintendent of the county public schools, the executive mayor of the county itself, and all endorse the hard-line on Cuba, otherwise, they would not have achieved their positions."
There was a survey done for the defense and the survey proved that a fair trial could not be had in Miami/Dade, and the Judge rejected the survey, and she rejected the arguments that the case be changed in venue out of Miami.
And so they went to trial before a Miami jury. And what happened? On the first day of the trial, the families of the victims of the shootdown held a press conference on the steps of the courthouse with members of the perspective jury present. At the end of the first day, the jurors reported to the Judge that there was a newspaper in the jury assembly room that was open to an article, a very damning article, about this case. Who put that newspaper in the jury assembly room? We still donít know. The Regional Director of the Cuban American National Foundation, the most hostile organization against Cuba, was in that jury panel. When he came into the courtroom, he was behaving in such a bizarre fashion that the judge called him right up to sidebar and questioned him, and in the record she said she was astonished at the rage that this man demonstrated. That was the atmosphere on the first day of the trial, and it continued throughout the trial.
The defense succeeded in removing, miraculously, every Cuban American from that jury. But it didnít matter because, and Iím quoting now from the voir dire, the foreman of the jury, when asked what was his attitude about Cuba said, "I regard Fidel Castro as a communist dictator, and I will be pleased on the day heís removed." That was the foreman. The number two juror agreed with that sentiment, and acknowledged that his daughter has been with the FBI for ten years as an employee. The number three juror also agreed with the sentiment and said that she worked for the State Attorneyís office in the criminal division, and she sat. And so on it went through twelve, and that was the nature of the jury that heard this case.
Only in Miami was a street named after the victims of the shootdown. Only in Miami was a plaza named after the victims of the shootdown. Only in Miami was a monument erected in a county building in honor of the victims.
All of these things happened in this one venue, and none of them happened in any other venue in the United States. I want to give you an example of what was the nature of the espionage. I want to read to you from the transcript just one page. This is a report back to Cuba from, I believe, Robertoís brother, Rene, and this is what he reported. This is the espionage that was taking place: "On March 16th, Andres Alvarino, who works in the prisons and is a member of the National Guard in Miami, told me about having a project with the Cuban American National Foundation to form a group of forty men with professional military experience, persons on active duty in the military branches, or ex-military personnel, in order to execute paramilitary missions against Cuba. It would be a force of mercenaries without ties to any other counter-revolutionary group of Cubans, and which they consider to have been penetrated. They would be paid commissions and they would have life insurance policies of $100,000 U.S. for their families.
Roberto Martin Perez will be in charge of the project for the Cuban American National Foundation. One of the financial promoters, Enrique Casas, a Cuban millionaire, and an ex-U.S. army officer, who has a boat company and arms deposits in Honduras, was a member of the Nicaraguan Contras."
This was what was sent back to Cuba from this group, and this is what forms the basis of the espionage counts, reporting on terrorist operations within the United States -- as you know, violations of the U.S. neutrality laws.
Now they knew that these attacks coming from the U.S. were probably coordinated with the military side in the U.S. So one of the five was assigned, my client, to watch the military activities on a navy training base called Boca Chica to see if there was any build up of any U.S. forces that would support operations by the mercenaries. And so the Government pointed to the fact that he was on a military base, and that he was watching for possible build-ups. But, if you know the espionage laws, it is not a violation of our espionage laws if you observe publicly available information and send it to a foreign country. The espionage laws are only triggered if the information that youíre sending to another country is information thatís secret and protected. The Government acknowledged in this case that there was no classified information that it had received from any of the five. Nonetheless, they were convicted of a conspiracy because the Government said, "If they were doing this, someday they would probably get classified information; they havenít yet, but they will." And this jury, of course, bought that argument.
Itís really a problematic situation for the five now. I must say, it is not a simple task to visit the Cuban five, three of whom are serving life, and two of them long sentences. Why? Because the Government put one in California, one in Wisconsin, one in Pennsylvania, one in Texas, and one in Colorado. So, if you go to visit them, you must take a considerable period of time to do the entire circuit. And I might say, and maybe Roberto will address this, two of them are not permitted to see their wives because the Government will not grant them visas to come visit. So they are essentially doing a life sentence without the opportunity to see their family in the case of two.
It would be tragic on its own, itís tragic as an injustice. Weíre filing appeals to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals. Those of you who are familiar with the Eleventh Circuit know how difficult this is going to be.
But something happened, and when youíre fighting a case on a just cause, things always happen; things that you donít expect happen. A year after this trial ended, and it ended in June of the year 2001, the same United States Attorney who prosecuted the five, who is no longer a United States Attorney, heís now the Assistant Attorney General of the United States. But this same prosecutor filed, in Miami, a request for a change of venue because he was defending Mr. Ashcroft in a suit brought by a Mexican American who was claiming job discrimination, which arose, tangentially, out of the Elian Gonzales episode. So the United States Attorney went into the same district court that we were tried in and said that, "This case must be transferred out because there is a Cuban political nexus to this case, and when thereís a Cuban political nexus, you cannot get a fair trial in the Miami/Dade district." Itís remarkable because the defense in our case relied on one case, a magnificent case, by Judge Wisdom of the Fifth Circuit, which is the predecessor of the Eleventh. Judge Wisdom had a case where an African American minister was charged, in Texas, with a crime for leading a sit-in at a lunch counter, and he was tried and convicted and the case was appealed, and when it got to the Fifth Circuit, Judge Wisdom said, "There was no pretrial publicity in this case, every juror said they could be fair and impartial, but this town in Texas is a town, which because of its pervasive beliefs and attitudes, could not afford an African American minister charged in a civil rights activity a fair trial."
So, the defense in our case said, "This is identical." Five men who are agents of the Cuban government, charged with conspiracy to commit espionage or murder, cannot get a fair trial in Miami/Dade. They could in possibly any other venue, but not here.
And what did the government answer in that case, the government said, "This case out of Texas is no precedent, because this Texas town is a small town; Miami is a large, diverse, metropolitan area, which could filter out prejudice." The judge bought it, and so venue stayed in Miami/Dade. But his year, when Mr. Ashcroft was the defendant in a civil case, and the Government claimed he couldnít get a fair trial, three times in their brief they cited the very same case. So Miami, all of a sudden, in one year, went from a large metropolitan area Ė it shrunk Ė to a small community.
We are now about to go back into court, while the case is pending in the Circuit, under whatís called a Rule 33 motion for a new trial, claiming thereís newly discovered evidence. And what is the newly discovered evidence? The obvious deception and misrepresentation that the prosecutors made when they fought against the venue change in our case, and the proof of it is the position they took in the Ashcroft case. So we are preparing these papers and will file them. Whether they have an impact on this Judge, Iím not sure. But the important thing is that the case receive national attention and national support. Miami has its own little thing going here, and it will not survive the light of day if itís nationally exposed. They were hurt by the Elian Gonzales case, and this case is a tack-on to that case. What should be exposed here now after 9-11 is the fact that these five men were prosecuted. Why? They were prosecuted because the Government of the United States saw that they were getting a little too close to our terrorists. Once the Government saw those four volumes, and saw what these men had gathered, the Government moved very quickly to protect our own terrorist network in Miami. And this case is entirely intertwined and linked with that process.
This case gives us an opportunity, not just to fight for justice and their cause, which is certainly worthwhile, but to expose the fact that we were also a host country to a group of terrorists known to us, and we even moved to protect them by accusing five people who were conducting an anti-terrorist operation in the United States.
I just want to close with this, and I donít often do this, but I want to quote from a Justice Department document. This is a document which was filed by a Deputy Attorney General when a man by the name of Orlando Bosch asked to be granted asylum in the United States. The Justice Department opposed asylum for Orlando Bosch because Orlando Bosch was involved in the bombing of an airliner in 1976 in which seventy-three people were killed, a Cuban airliner. And he was involved in a number of other acts of terror and violence. He was in the United States and the INS was seeking to deport him as an "undesirable person." I just want to quote what the Deputy Attorney General wrote in this twenty page document in reviewing the case of Orlando Bosch: "Based on all the information available to me, both confidential and non-confidential, it is clear, that for more than thirty years, Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has formed and lead organizations whose purposes include, precisely, the actions declared to be grounds for exclusions. Over the years, he has personally been involved in terrorist attacks abroad, and has advocated and been involved in bombings and sabotage." The findings by the Justice Department.
What happened to Orlando Bosch? On the recommendation of Jeb Bush, now Governor of Florida, Bush senior overruled the Justice Department and granted this man who had bombed an airliner residence in the United States.
He walks the streets of Miami as a free man. This demonstrates for me the attitudes that were extant in this case. That the United States will grant to a known and convicted Ė he was convicted in Panama of the bombing Ė terrorist a residential status in the United States in order to protect, and at the behest of, the Cuban American community, lead in that instance by Jeb Bush.
I just want to close by saying, Orlando Bosch had an attorney who represented him in this case. That attorney is the grandson of Batista, and last month Jeb Bush appointed him to the Florida Supreme Court. So that gives you some understanding of what this case is all about. Thanks.
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