None of the charges against the Cubans involved violence, weapons or damage to property. The five were arrested after the Cuban government passed information over to Washington that one extremist group, Brothers to the Rescue, was practising to attack Cuban territory using pipe bombs dropped from aeroplanes – three years prior to the airborne attack of 9/11 in 2001. The US government’s response was to arrest the Cuban agents for spying.
Last Sunday, CBC, the Canadian television corporation, broadcast a programme focusing on the case of Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cubans who infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue. The video can be seen here.
In 2005, a US court conceded that the Cuban 5 did not receive a fair trial in Miami – a stronghold for the rightwing Cuban exile community – and ordered a new trial in a different location. However, the Attorney General intervened to get the decision overturned, and in August 2006 the full 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions and rejected claims that the trial should be moved. In 2008, a federal appeal court again upheld the convictions of the Cuban 5, but vacated the sentences of three of them. A three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals returned those cases to a federal judge in Miami for resentencing. This was the third time the case came before the courts. In early 2009, the Cuban 5 legal team filed a petition with the US Supreme Court asking it to examine the case, in particular the change of trial venue and jury selection.
The report here from the Cuban News Agency explains that an unprecedented number of amicus curiae – friend of the court – briefs have been filed with the Supreme Court by national and international personalities, jurists and human rights organizations requesting review of lower court rulings.