Saturday, August 12, 2006

The court ignored the anti-Cuban hostility that reigns in Miami

Granma International

Havana. August 11, 2006

• Emphasizes attorney Leonard Weinglass, member of
the defense team for the Five

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD —Special for Granma International—

"THIS decision is not the end of the case," emphasized attorney Leonard Weinglass of the United States, commenting on a ruling by the Court of Appeals in Atlanta revoking a favorable decision for the Five by a three-judge panel from that same court that had acknowledged the hostile environment in Miami where the trial was held and ordering a new trial.

In a press conference via a telephone call from the United States, the defense lawyer noted that nine additional issues in the case remain to be considered and ruled on by a three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals.

However, the defense team for the five Cuban heroes may decide to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Whether or not that will be done will be decided after the six lawyers have absorbed the 120-page ruling," Weinglass explained.

"If we decide to go to the Supreme Court, we will have 90 days to perfect our appeal. Then the government (prosecutors) may or may not respond. And then we will have to wait for the court’s decision."

The ruling issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta comprises a 120-page document; 68 of those pages express the majority opinion represented by Judge Wilson and 52 that of the minority, represented by Judge Birch.

"If we decide not to go before the Supreme Court, then the case would return to the three-judge panel, and we would have to hear from them in order to see how we should further proceed with the other nine issues," Weinglass explained. "There is a long way to go," he noted.

The New York attorney admitted that the defense team was "very disappointed by the ruling by Judge Wilson, a former U.S. federal attorney from Florida."

"We had the impression, just like the dissenting judges, that the majority totally overlooked the coercive atmosphere that exists and has existed for years in Miami against any person considered to be associated with the government of Cuba. And that was the climate that interfered and denied the defendants a fair trial," affirmed Weinglass.

He insisted that the court ignored the anti-Cuba hostility that prevails in a city dominated by the Cuban-American mafia.

"The majority (of the judges) ‘whitewashed’ the issue of the atmosphere in Miami. One can read the pages of their opinion and not find substantial reference to the existing community prejudice in Miami against anybody associated with the Cuban government."

The dissenting judges in this case have repeated what Judge Birch said in her original 93-page opinion one year ago on August 9: that what this case represented was "a perfect storm of prejudice."

Bruce Nestor, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, agreed that the Atlanta Court’s ruling does not end the case: "Many legal issues remain to be resolved," he said.

This "ruling not only denies justice to the Five, it also has very profound implications for anybody seeking a fair trial within the current political climate in the United States," he said, adding, "I think this decision grants the government enormous power to raise politically motivated cases and then find a venue where community prejudice and attitude will allow them to get a conviction when the evidence does not."

Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the U.S. National Committee to Free the Five, reiterated that on September 23, representatives from some 250 organizations will hold a national march on Washington from the Department of Justice to the White House to demand freedom for Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

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