Cuban Five: Another New Year’s Eve Behind Bars
Who the heck are the Cuban Five and why are they spending their seventh straight New Year’s Eve in US maximum security prisons? The answer can be found in the new documentary “Mission Against Terror.”
The powerful movie co-directed by Irish journalist Bernie Dwyer and Cuban educational TV program maker Roberto Ruiz Rebo tells the story of five Cuban men who infiltrated the Miami underworld to uncover plots of terrorist attacks on their country, carried out by thugs and convicted assassins operating with the consent and protection of Washington.
Mission Against Terror makes its case in the words of former CIA agent Phillip Agee, defense attorney Leonard Weinglass, Catholic Priest Geoffrey Bottoms, close relatives of the political prisoners and Cuban-Americans willing to take the risk to speak out.
It denounces how Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez were railroaded into US prisons for crimes they never committed and the cruelty both they and their families suffer from their separation.
Countless irregularities in the legal proceedings held in a hostile Dade County Florida atmosphere and the prosecution’s failure to present evidence backing their accusations that the Cubans had endangered US national security exemplifies the politicized nature of the trial.
When asked why people outside Cuba should be particularly concerned about the issue, Mission Against Terror co-director Bernie Dwyer said the Cuban Five case is important “because it is symbolic of the non-stop US aggression against Cuban sovereignty.”
“People outside Cuba should be especially concerned because it is a perfect example of the struggle between David and Goliath. These five men were not violating any legal agreements between the United States and Cuba, but the US consistently violates international conventions, UN regulations and the Universal Charter of Human Rights in its dealings with Cuba. The case of the Five is, unfortunately, a perfect example of this.”
At the Havana premiere of the film presented in the recently concluded 26th New Latin American Film Festival, Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon said it comes at an opportune time and will no doubt bring increased solidarity with the Cuban Five. He further emphasized the directors’ contribution to a cause totally ignored by the US corporate media.
Besides detailing the legal ramifications of the case, the 50-minute film documents the gross abuses of human rights committed against the Cuban Five, forced into solitary confinement for prolonged periods of up to 17 months for no reason. It also illustrates how their close family members are routinely denied the right to visit their innocent loved ones.
Mission Against Terror outlines the many reasons Cuba has to defend itself against terrorist attacks, after having survived 45 years of an economic, commercial and financial blockade and countless CIA plots to assassinate President Fidel Castro.
Dwyer said she became interested in the case for both political and personal reasons. “Looking into this case, the miscarriage of justice reminded me of my involvement in several cases of political prisoners unjustly incarcerated in Britain.”
“I also related to the problems experienced by the families of the Cuban Five because the same problems were met by the Irish prisoner’s families when they went to England to visit their loved ones: prisoners being moved without notice, subjected to humiliating searches before being allowed to see their family members, no privacy, etc.”
Meanwhile, on March 10, 2004 defense attorneys made their appeal for a retrial to a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta. Over nine months later a ruling is still pending.
Dwyer said she remains optimistic. “A few months ago the judges requested more material, which can only be seen as a good sign. The problem is that this case could easily be treated as a political case, which means a directive could come from the Bush administration overruling the independence of the judges.”
“The very least that should be expected from the appeal is a retrial outside of Miami. The evidence of a mistrial and violations throughout the proceedings is overwhelming. If the Cuban Five don’t get a new trial, it will be a sad day for American justice.”
When asked what the release of the Cuban Five would mean to the island, the Mission Against Terror co-director said it would bring “a huge amount of hope to Cuba: hope that maybe there is a form of US justice that overrides political blackmail: that the US judicial system recognizes Cuba’s right to defend itself against aggression emanating from Miami. Personally, their release would give me hope that there is some form of justice in the world.”