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Father Geoffrey Bottoms is a British Catholic priest. He is an executive member of the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign and has visited Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González in their various US prisons and met regularly with their families. He also leads Group Study Tours of Cuba each year on behalf of the British campaign. Father Bottoms is a follower of liberation theology and is actively involved in the labour and trade movement. He is a member of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union in the UK.
July 5, 2014
Dear President Obama,
As a Catholic priest in Britain I have followed the case of five Cuban prisoners in the United States known as the Cuban Five since 2002. They were convicted in Miami of charges ranging from failure to disclose themselves as foreign agents to conspiracy to commit espionage and even murder and were given sentences stretching from fifteen years to double life. In reality they were defending their people against acts of terrorism by certain Cuban-American groups in Miami hostile to Havana that have killed almost three thousand five hundred people and injured over two thousand others.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the recommendation of its Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and Amnesty International have both raised concerns as to the fairness and impartiality of a trial that took place in such a hostile environment as Miami where there were irregularities in the due process of law. An International Commission of Inquiry held in London in March of 2014 led by three internationally renowned judges reached a similar conclusion.
I have attended three appeals on behalf of the Five in Miami and Atlanta and heard the arguments for myself. I have also visited three of the prisoners and met with their families and am convinced that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice.
Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez have both returned to Cuba having served their sentences but I am appealing for the release of Gerardo Hernandez serving double life in USP Victorville, California, Antonio Guerrero serving 22 years in FCI Marianna, and Ramon Labanino (known as Luis Medina) serving thirty years in FCI Ashland. The appeal process has now reached the stage of Habeas Corpus with fresh evidence having come to light of journalists in the pay of the US government writing biased reports both before and during the trial itself.
Mr. President, I know that you are a man of peace having won the Nobel Peace Prize and that you are also a man of faith who attempts to put his Christian principles into practice in public life. I therefore appeal for the release of the remaining three Cuban prisoners in the interests of furthering relations between the US and Cuba and world peace. Surely a humanitarian resolution to this case can be found?
The world has moved on since 1959 and it is obvious that US policy towards Cuba since then has failed to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile much suffering has been caused not least to these men and their families and especially Adriana, the wife of Gerardo Hernandez, who has been consistently denied a visa to visit her husband since 1998. I believe that they are victims of this failed strategy.
Both your country and Cuba stand to benefit from a relationship of mutual respect and co-operation and your presidency could be defined by ending decades of this sterile policy towards a noble and heroic developing country on your doorstep that only wishes to pursue its humanitarian future free from outside interference.
Can you do it? Yes you can!
With the greatest respect,
Fr. Geoffrey Bottoms