New trial sought for Cuban five

In a phone press conference, Nov. 12, Leonard Weinglass, attorney for Cuban Five defendant Antonio Guerrero, announced that he filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida seeking a new trial. Weinglass expressed optimism that the motion would lead to the eventual release of all of the Five.

Guerrero and his co-defendants were convicted in June 2001 of charges including 'conspiracy to commit espionage.' They were monitoring the ultra-right, anti-communist groups in Miami to help defend Cuba against terrorist attacks.

A major pretrial issue in the case was where to hold the trial. The Five petitioned unsuccessfully for the trial to be moved from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, based on the pervasive prejudice of Miamians against the Republic of Cuba.

The 32-page motion, with 160 pages of appendices, cites the defense’s discovery that a year after the Cuban Five’s trial ended, U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, who prosecuted the Five, filed a motion in an unrelated case that made many of the same arguments that he had disputed in the case of the Five.

Lewis told the court in the more recent case, Ramirez v. Ashcroft, that a fair trial in Miami on issues related to Cuba was 'virtually impossible.' For legal authority, he made three citations to the civil rights case of Pamplin v. Mason; yet when this same case was cited by the Five, he had argued that its holding was limited to backwater communities and could never apply to Miami.

Weinglass noted that the Eleventh Circuit, where Miami is located, has previously said that for the government to advance such contrary positions risks a mockery of the justice system. 'This can’t be justified under any analysis of the facts,' said Weinglass.

Richard Klug of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Miami called the motion 'extremely well thought out and compelling,' and said he anticipated that the rest of the Five would join it shortly.

The newly filed motion has no direct effect on the Five’s pending challenge in the Court of Appeals. That appeal remains stationary with no timetable, while the trail court considers a motion to unseal a portion of the record regarding access to classified information.

Weinglass said if the motion is granted, he would seek bail, and for the new trial to be held outside Miami. 'It was a very strong case that the defense put in in Miami,' he said. 'In any other venue in the U.S., they probably would have won the trial.'

Updated information is maintained at www.antiterroristas.cu and www.freethefive.org

The author can be reached at g.grass@justice.com



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