A call to join the Cuba and Latin American/Caribbean contingents on March 19
A statement from the Cuban National Assembly on the Cuban 5
On Sat. March 19, 2005, thousands are expected to come out to protest the U.S. war in Iraq. Latin American and Caribbean activists are urging everyone to come out to show solidarity with Iraq and the people of the Latin American/Caribbean regions. The Committee to Free the Cuban 5-NY urges everyone to come out and help get out the word on the Cuban 5.
There will be two speakers on Cuba at the rally. Other speakers include Howard Zinn, Council Members Charles Barron & Margarita Lopez, Ramsey Clark, Lucius Walker, Nellie Bailey. Several artists including Nana Soul and the Welfare Poets.
Please join activists at 10am, Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. March to East Meadow park in Central Park by 12noon. Then at 3pm march to Mayor Bloomberg's office to demand money for cities, not wars and occupations.
Look for the Cuba 5 banners to pick up lit, and to march for Cuba, etc.
2) From the Cuban National Assembly President's office, this commentary contains the best simple description yet given of the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in "Blakeley" and its importance to the Five.)
The Cuban Five Appeal for Justice: One Year Later March 9, 2005
A year has gone by since the March 10 hearing on the case of the Cuban Five before judges of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. It was an opportunity to appeal the unjust sentences dictated by a Miami federal court against five men who had fought against terrorism to safeguard their country.
The federal court of appeals system does not establish a term by which a ruling needs to be made, so we must continue to hope that the judges will soon conclude their analysis and render their ruling.
Meanwhile, with this appeal process open and the judges studying the case, an important precedent has been set down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of "Blakely vs. Washington" limiting the power of judges to increase a sentence beyond that indicated by a jury's verdict. In other words, it establishes that a judge should only impose a sentence within the established limits for the crime and the circumstances evaluated by the jury.
For some experts, the recent decision of the Supreme Court questions the validity of the sentencing guidelines that have been in force since 1987, and could affect thousands of cases. However, what is certain is that since last October the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases in an attempt to clarify the confusion relating to sentence guidelines.
In the case of the Cuban Five, as Antonio Guerrero's defense attorney Leonard Weinglass has explained, after the jury found Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio guilty, the presiding judge, Joan Lenard, should have looked at federal sentencing alternatives. The maximum for their case, corresponding to the verdict of the jury, was 26 years. Nevertheless, the judge increased this limit, using factors that were not presented to the jury and which have still to be pronounced, condemning them to serve life terms. This decision was based on the supposed power to make such a pronouncement by the judge, but is being contested in "Blakely vs Washingtong" that categorically says that the judge doesn't have such power.
The decision of the Supreme Court constitutes a new precedent in that with a case still open federal sentencing guidelines should be taken into account in the appeals process given the consequences of the arbitrary action carried out by a federal court. In the United States a legal precedent becomes "law" since the "Common Law" system that governs the administration of justice is based on the doctrine of the "Stare Decisis" (that which is decided). This consists of previous judicial decisions in similar cases becoming legal guidelines known as "precedents".
Aside from this new precedent that now requires consideration, another legal fact that exposes the notorious injustice made in Miami against the five Cubans, is the case heard in a federal district court in Los Angeles, California, against Katrina M. Leung, an American citizen, of Chinese origin. According to an affidavit presented by FBI Special Agent Randall Thomas, Leung was accused of espionage for violation of Title 18 of the United States penal code, Section 793 (b) ("Non-authorized use of national defense information to benefit a foreign nation") who, according to the charge, was recruited by former FBI agent James Smith, the principle defendant in the case.
Beyond the debate over the guilt or innocence of Leung, and without commenting on the decision of the court in her case, it is illustrative to briefly compare the treatment given to Ms Leung to that offered the Five, as much in terms of the administration of justice in the United States as in the mainstream media coverage.
Ms. Leung began a relationship with a former FBI special agent linked to the national security of the United States. The Five didn't have any relationship with members of official intelligence investigation agencies of the United States, but with extreme right-wing Cuban-American organizations of a private character dedicated to carrying out terrorist actions against the Cuban Revolution.
According to the FBI affidavit, Leung was provided documents classified as "Top Secret" relative to the national security of the United States. The Five were not given a single classified document, and no witness at their trial testified that they had compromised the national security or defense of the United States.
For lack of evidence, Ms. Leung was exonerated of all charges by presiding judge Florence M Coper. The Five were condemned by Judge Joan Lenard of the Miami Dade Federal District Court, to the most severe and unjust penalties, including life imprisonment for three of them (Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio) - another reason why the trial should never have been heard in Miami.
The case of Ms. Leung had wide media coverage in the United States, including the Washington Post, the New York Time, USA Today, and others. Around the case of the Five a wall of silence arose, with only the local Miami press covering their trial, and always in a manner that reviled them and stirred up local hatred and prejudice against them in a community already ridden with prejudice.
We don't doubt the innocence of Ms. Leung who returned to the life of a wealthy businesswoman, and, incidentally, that of an important activist for the Republican Party. What we know is the innocence of these five men - humble, honest, simple professionals, who fought against terrorism and who should be returned to their homeland without anything other than the satisfaction and honor that they fulfilled their duty to the eternal gratitude of their people.
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