September 21, 2008
Leonard Weinglass: Public Support is Crucial in Cuban Five Case
Leonard Weinglass, Defense Attorney for the five Cuban antiterrorist fighters held in US jails for 10 years now, known as the Cuban Five, spoke with the Cuban News Agency during the launching, September 20 in Havana, of the book “Chronicle of an Injustice,” which describes the case; the book is one more effort to raise world awareness about the cause of five Cubans who were given extremely long sentences for having fought terrorism. We now bring our readers the full text of the conversation with the US lawyer.
Mr. Weinglass, the 11 Circuit of Atlanta’s Court of Appeals recently rejected a petition made last June 24 by the defense to review the case and reconsider its decision, upheld the convictions. Could you tell us what comes next in the legal battle in favor of the Five?
- “The legal case is now moving to Washington, where we are attempting to get the Supreme Court of nine justices to take the case for review, that is one front of legal work, the second front returns to Miami where three of the Five are scheduled to be re-sentenced before the trial judge. That is the other front we are working on. There is a two-front struggle at this point. It’s very important that we build support for the case in Washington.”
However, we understand that the Supreme Court only takes from 1.5 two 2 percent of the case that are presented each year. What are the chances for this case, then?
-- “It is very difficulty to assess what our chances are. However, this is a very unusual case; it is important nationally and internationally. It is a case which won a unanimous decision first at the 11 Circuit and then it lost two later decisions, but those decisions carried a very strong dissent so in the three cases we won one and we barely lost two, so the Supreme Court should look at this record, since it is an ambiguous record, it is the kind of record that calls out for a review.”
As to legal cases you have reiterated your statement that you do not win in court but on the streets, we understand that public support is crucial.
-- “The lesson of the Angela Davis case, in which I was involved, is that as you build public support you increase the prospects of obtaining a victory. She was an African American woman, a member of the Communist Party, tried before a white jury in a rural county of California and charged with killing a judge; it was very serious, she originally carried the death penalty, but she was acquitted of all charges and that was largely because of the international outcry about her case. In the other political cases, I have been involved in public support has been crucial. The Supreme Court this year will get 8000 petitions for review; they will take fewer than one hundred; our case will only be taken if it becomes a known case, a rather famous case, then it will be review, so public support is essential to our work.”
Why is this a political case?
-- “These case takes every definition of a political trial, and it is a case that involves not just a political issue but also the relationship between the US and Cuba. In the trial process they reviewed the 40-year history of that relationship, and this case is centered in that history. So it is unavoidable of the process itself that the process itself has been political since the beginning and it remains political. Senator McCain, currently running for President referred to our case, so it is a political case; if it will be decided politically it requires political support.
The presentation of the book, which was printed in Spanish, English and French, was made by the president of the Cuban Parliament Ricardo Alarcon at the colonial building hosting the Cuban Book Institute, in the old section of Havana. The ceremony was attended by relatives of the Cuban Five, the president of the Havana-based Casa de Las Americas Institution, Roberto Fernandez Retamar and other personalities.
Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero, were framed and arrested by FBI agents in 1998 and given unfair and long sentences including four life terms, after they collected information on Florida-based ultra-right organizations that have undertaken terrorist actions against the Cuban people.