12/10/13 - Cuba-L Document (Albuquerque) - ANC: Statement on the launch of the `Free the Cuban Five` Campaign
12 September 2006
We, a broad coalition of South African organisations and individuals, are today (12 September 2006) launching a country-wide campaign to seek the release of five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States.
This forms part of an international campaign taking place from 12 September to 6 October 2006.
These dates have been chosen because 12 September marks eight years of imprisonment for the Cuban Five. Other key dates in this period are 21 September and 6 October, respectively the 30th anniversaries of the assassination of the former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and the sabotage of a Cuban civilian airliner off the coast of Barbados, which cost the lives of all 73 on board.
We call on all South Africans who oppose terror and who support the rights of all peoples to peace and justice to become part of the global effort to break the silence about the plight of the Cuban Five.
The unjust imprisonment of the Cuban Five is a violation of their right to a fair trial. The Five were arrested on espionage charges; held in solitary confinement; denied the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury; and sentenced, collectively, to four life terms and 75 years.
The imprisonment of the Five is an assault on the people of Cuba and their inalienable right to defend themselves against acts of terror and aggression. The Five were involved in gathering information about Cuban-American groups using the US as a base to plan and launch terror attacks against Cuba and its citizens. They were not engaged in any activities which threatened the national security of the US.
The imprisonment of the Five is an example of United States inconsistency in the `war on terror`. While it proclaims to be engaged in a war on terror, the US allows terrorist groups to use its soil as a base for attacks on Cuban civilians, colludes with those responsible for the attacks, and arrests and imprisons those who have been tasked with monitoring and reporting on potential terrorist atrocities. The imprisonment of the Five is an indication by the US that they condone terror attacks on Cuba.
The five Cubans are RenÃ© GonzÃ¡lez, RamÃ³n LabaÃ±ino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, and Gerardo HernÃ¡ndez.
The five were working for the Cuban government to protect Cuba from invasion and terrorism organised, funded and launched from Miami. To fulfill this mission they had infiltrated some of the Miami-based organisations responsible for these acts.
Since 1959, Cuban-American groups based in Miami have conducted bombings, assassinations and other sabotage, killing hundreds of innocent Cuban civilians.
These acts of terror have taken place in the context of US policy that has sought to collectively punish the Cuban people for exercising their sovereign right to determine their own road for building their society. This includes a 43-year economic blockade, which continues to this day, and providing shelter for ultra-right terror groups.
Just months before the arrest of the Five in 1998, the Cuban government turned over to US law-enforcement officials a memorandum summarising evidence gathered on the 40-year campaign of murder, bombings, arson and other attacks against Cuba. At a historic meeting in Havana, the Cubans requested US law-enforcement officials to act on the evidence to end the cycle of terror.
Instead of acting against the terrorists, the US government arrested the five Cubans on false charges of espionage. After their arrest by the FBI in September 1998, they were convicted on 8 June 2001 and sentenced in December 2001.
AN ASSAULT ON THE RIGHT TO JUSTICE
In the process of arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning the Cuban Five, the US has violated the basic rights of the men in several ways.
They have violated the right of the Cuban Five to defend themselves and their country from external aggression through the compilation of information that may prevent another terrorist attack. In doing this, they posed no threat to the national security of the US.
The five were held without bail for 33 months between arrest and trial, including 17 months in solitary confinement cells used to punish prisoners guilty of assault and other violent behavior after being sentenced. They were completely cut off from their families and young children, and not even able to communicate with each other, in violation of international norms.
The Five were denied the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, having their case heard in Miami, a city whose population has been shown by independent polling to favour US military intervention against Cuba and which supports the armed invasion of Cuba by exiles.
In May 2005 the UN Human Rights Commission Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions declared that the imprisonment of the Five was arbitrary and insisted that the US government adopt measures to resolve the situation.
In August 2005, a three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, in Atlanta, Georgia, reversed the convictions and sentences against the five on the grounds that the Five did not receive a fair trial in Miami, and ordered a new trial.
However, in an unusual step, the US Attorney General then ordered the filing of an appeal to all 12 judges of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal to review the decision of the three judges.
On 9 August this year, the court found, by a margin of 10 judges to two, that the Five had not been prejudiced by the holding of the trial in Miami. While this is a major setback for their effort to receive a fair trial, the Cuban Five still have some legal avenues available to them.
This ruling has strengthened the resolve of the Five and their many supporters in Cuba and around the world to continue the fight for their freedom.
A CALL TO ACTION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
We have therefore decided to participate in a campaign to moblise the South African people in support of justice, peace and human rights.
Activities that have been planned for the period up until 6 October include:
The circulation of a petition addressed to the US Attorney General demanding the immediate release of the Cuban Five, or the re-trial of their case before an impartial jury.
Awareness raising among the South African people through the distribution of leaflets and pamphlets in communities, educational institutions and workplaces; outreach to various sectors of society; and interaction with the media.
Urging all concerned organisations to make contact with fraternal organisations or groups in the US to mobilise support for the cause of the Five.
Organising various seminars, round-table discussions and debates in different parts of the country.
All this will culminate in a mass march to the embassies of the United States and Cuba in Tshwane on 6 October, where we will present a memorandum calling for the release of the five. Marches and pickets will also take place in other parts of the country on that day.
In embarking on this campaign, we are not asking for the Cuban Five anything more than that to which they are entitled.
We are not challenging the sovereignty of the United States or asking that they act in violation of their own Constitution or legal instruments. We are, in fact, only asking that the United States accord the Cuban Five the inalienable rights to which they are entitled, both under US and international law.
We are asking that the United States be consistent in its opposition to terror, and in its affirmation of the right of all countries to defend themselves against external terrorist aggression.
As the organisations and individuals gathered here today, we:
Call for the Cuban Five to be released.
Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS)
South African Council of Churches (SACC)
African National Congress (ANC)
South African Communist Party (SACP)
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO)
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