Wife of jailed Cuban in US seeks Indian diaspora’s help for release

September 26th, 2008 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) The wife of a Cuban jailed in the US on espionage charges for the last 10 years is here to mobilise the vast Indian diaspora in America to secure his release and of four of his compatriots - referred to as the Cuban Five.”We want India to spread the word to its diaspora living in the US as the US media does not write about our cause and most of the Americans do not know about these five innocent men imprisoned since the past 10 years,” Rosa Aurora Freijanes told IANS.

“We also want to spread awareness in India on the plight of the Cuban Five. We feel that since there are so many victims of terrorism in this country, we will be able to touch a chord,” Freijanes added.

“You should realise that this is a man who has done nothing wrong. Keeping him in custody is a violation of his human rights,” said lawyer Nuris Pinero Sierra, who is accompanying Freijanes on the visit here at the invitation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Although no meetings have been lined up as yet, the two women would like to meet with government officials, rights groups and other after coordinating with Cuban embassy here, Sierra said.

Freijanes’ husband Fernando Gonzales, as also Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzales, had gone to the US in 1998 to monitor certain Miami-based organisations that were allegedly sponsoring unlawful activities in Cuba.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were funding these organisations, she alleged.

All five were arrested in Miami in September 1998 and were indicted by the US government on 26 different counts, including the use of false identification, espionage and conspiracy to commit murder.

In June 2001, they were convicted of all 26 counts in a US federal court in Miami and in December sentenced to varying terms in maximum-security prison: two consecutive life terms for Hernández, life for Guerrero and Labañino, 19 years for Fernando Gonzáles, and 15 years for René Gonzáles.

In August 2005, a three-judge appellate panel in Atlanta overturned the convictions and sentences and ordered a new trial, saying the Cuban exile community in Miami and the publicity surrounding the case made the trial unfavourable and prejudicial to the defendants.

In June this year, another appeals court upheld the convictions of the Cuban Five but vacated the sentences of Fernando Gonzales, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, saying they should be re-sentenced.

The court affirmed the two life terms for Gerardo Hernandez and the 15-year sentence of Rene Gonzales.

During the past 10 years, Freijanes has travelled to Britain and all the Latin American nations in a bid to mobilise their governments to push for her husband’s release.

She has also approached Amnesty International more than once for the cause of Cuban Five.

Significantly, United Nations Human Rights Commission has also voiced its concern about the group and has asked the US to examine the matter afresh.

Speaking about her husband, Freijanes said: “He has been confined in a cell for 10 years and is not allowed to move. He and the other four Cubans are kept under very heavy security.”

She also spoke of the “psychological torture” she has to undergo every time she wants to meet her husband.

“It takes at least one-and-a-half years to get a (US) visa and then too, I can meet him for only seven hours. I have met him only eight times during the past 10 years,” Freijanes said, the pain evident in her voice.

Sierra added: “They are not allowed to even shake hands or kiss.”

“When I met Fernando for the first time after he was imprisoned, I threw my arms around him. A guard came up to me and said: ‘I’m leaving you because this is the first time. If you do it again, I’ll throw you out’” Freijanes said.

Still, she is confident her husband will walk free some day.

“I haven’t given up hope,” Freijanes sighed.

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