By a New Worker correspondent
New Worker supporters and hundreds of other Londoners braved the pouring rain on Tuesday to take part in a candlelit vigil outside the US embassy and demand the release of the Miami Five. TUC leader Brendan Barber, veteran Labour politician Tony Benn and a number of other union leaders joined the daughter of one of the Cuban prisoners in calling for their immediate release during the early evening vigil in Grosvenor Square.
Five Cubans have been unjustly imprisoned in US jails since 1998 for trying to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba. The United Nations, Amnesty International and numerous legal, religious and human rights organisations have questioned the fairness of their trial and long sentences, and condemned the US government’s persistent refusal to grant visas to allow two of their wives to visit.
For more than 40 years, right wing Cuban exile groups based in Miami have killed almost 3,500 people in terrorist attacks against Cuba. To save lives, Cuba sent five men to Miami to infiltrate and monitor the groups. At the request of the US government, this information was passed to the FBI in 1998.But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI used the information to identify and arrest the five Cubans on 12th September 1998 in Miami and charged them with spying and conspiracy.
Cuba has acknowledged that the prisoners are intelligence agents, while confirming they were spying on Miami’s Cuban exile community and not the US government.
Two of the prisoners’ wives, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, have been refused visas ten times and have not seen their husbands for 10 and 12 years.
Last August, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber wrote to US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to protest about the “cruel punishment” meted out to Gerardo Hernandez, who was placed in a tiny windowless for the third time when seeking to appeal against his conviction.
“Not only is this cruel punishment being imposed without explanation, and preventing Gerardo from seeing his lawyers at a crucial stage in his preparation for Habeas Corpus, but it has also been imposed while Gerardo is experiencing health problems,” Barber said.
Eight Nobel Prize winners as well as 110 British MPs have also taken up their cause, writing to the US Attorney General calling for the immediate release of all five.