Cuban Five prisoner freed

Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert, one of the Cuban Five, imprisoned by the U.S. on spying charges, was released from a federal prison today after 13 years behind bars.

His four fellow inmates remain in jail and judges have denied Gonzalez's request to return to his family in Cuba, saying he must serve three years' probation in the U.S. first. But his wife Olga Salanueva said if he remained in the US "his life would be in danger."

Miami-based terrorist organizations have killed almost 3,500 Cubans over the last four decades, including in the Oct. 6, 1976, bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in which 78 people died. The U.S. still harbors Luis Posada Carriles, who was heavily implicated in that bombing, and various anti-Cuban terror groups remain active there.

The Cuban Five have always denied U.S. espionage accusations and maintained that they were monitoring such groups to help prevent further terrorist atrocities.

Assistant U.S. attorney Caroline Heck Miller said Gonzalez could not return to Cuba "because he might resume his spy career."

Salanueva said her husband's release would "alert people's attention" and raise the prospect of his assassination by right-wingers while he remained in the US.

"If they say Rene is a danger to that society - well, he's no danger to ours," she said. "The logical thing is to send him home."

And Cuban daily Granma said the probation constituted "a deliberate additional penalty motivated by the same desires for political revenge which characterized the conviction of the five in 2001." Even anti-Cuban extremist group Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto said Gonzalez should be sent home.

"If anything were to happen to him, I know we will be blamed," Basulto said.

The Cuban Five went to the U.S. to report on the activities of groups involved in terror attacks on Cuba in the 1990s. At the U.S.'s request the Cuban government passed on their findings to the FBI in 1998, but authorities used the information to arrest the five.

Their trial, which began in 2000, took place in Miami, where the right-wing Cuban exile community holds significant influence.

It also sparked allegations of serious procedural flaws and rights organizations including Amnesty International have long called for a retrial.

This article originally appeared in the Morning Star.

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