Father Michael Lapsley, Chairperson of Friends of Cuba Society in Cape Town and the First National President of FOUS, calls on President Obama to contribute to the fight against terrorism by releasing the Cuban 5.
In a manifestly unfair trial Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two life sentences for the shooting down of two planes by the Cuban Air Force. The planes were flown by a Miami based extremist group – Brothers to the Rescue who had consistently violated Cuban air space despite diplomatic warnings of the consequences. Cuba says that the planes were shot down over Cuban airspace. The United States contends that the planes were shot down over international air space but is refusing to release the satellite footage which would clinch the argument. Today the Cuban government is considering suing to get the evidence.
Whilst no evidence was ever produced that Hernandez was involved in the shooting down of the planes, a Miami court had no difficulty finding him guilty along with his four compatriots who were found guilty on lesser charges. The trial had more to do with vengeance than justice.
On Saturday May 14, I visited Gerardo Hernandez for the sixth time at Victorville Maximum Security Federal Penitentiary two hours drive from Los Angeles.
12 years into a double life sentence visiting Gerardo is always bitter sweet. Gerardo is s very impressive human beings who is paying heavily for his commitment to safety for his motherland
As always, we discuss family – my Mother died a month ago – I went to New Zealand for her funeral – his Mother died a couple of years ago – Gerardo couldn’t go as he was locked up for a crime he didn’t commit
Gerardo asked me to thank the South African government and people to thank for all they are doing to free the 5.
It has emerged that contrary to the US constitution, journalists were paid by the US government to shape public opinion during the trial.
10 years on, and again, contrary to international humanitarian law and convention, neither Gerardo nor fellow prisoner René Gonzalez can be visited by their wives Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva.
In the light of the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the United States Government, it is a profound irony that the same government does not release the 5 heroes imprisoned for trying to prevent terrorism.
A further stark irony was the recent acquittal of self confessed terrorist Luis Posada Carriles by a US court. The Venezuelan government wants him extradited to face 79 charges of murder for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976
Recently President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba and promised to speak to President Obama about releasing the 5.
After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the legal options have become fewer and fewer although they are still being pursued.
It is the task of the international solidarity movement to keep pressing the case until the Cuban 5 are reunited with their families. I long to visit Gerardo and his wife Adriana not for the seventh time in a US prison but in their home in Havana.
The title of a soon to be released “must watch” documentary is “Would the real terrorists please stand up” which will explain why the Five have sacrificed to protect their country.
By releasing Gerardo and his four compatriots, President Obama would show the world that he is serious about opposing terrorism.
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