In recent interviews two lawyers for the Cuban Five described the punitive conditions of René González’s supervised release. González, one of five Cuban revolutionaries framed up by the U.S. government and imprisoned since 1998 on fabricated “conspiracy” charges, completed his prison term October 7.
Supervised release is in fact an additional sentence on top of the prison term for federal inmates. It imposes onerous conditions similar to parole. Supervised release has been in use since 1987 when parole, which involves an early release, was ended for federal prisoners.
After serving more than 13 years behind bars, González is the first of the five revolutionaries released under supervision of the federal court’s probation office. The other four—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Ramón Labañino—are still in prison, serving sentences ranging from 17 years and nine months to double life plus 15 years.
The Cuban Five were living and working in southern Florida, gathering information on counterrevolutionary groups operating from there with the knowledge and complicity of Washington. These groups have a long history of violent and murderous attacks on Cuba and on supporters of the Cuban Revolution in the U.S. The five were arrested in 1998 FBI raids and have been imprisoned ever since.
Philip Horowitz, René González’s lawyer, was interviewed by Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five days after González’s release. Richard Klugh, Hernández’s lawyer, was interviewed by Bernie Dwyer from Radio Havana Cuba on October 14.
René González’s supervised release, Klugh said, “was part of the original sentence. It is part of every sentence. What was decided at the last moment was that unlike other foreign nationals whose families live outside of the United States, René would not be permitted to join his family” in Cuba.
On September 16 U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, who presided over the 2001 trial, denied a motion by González that he be allowed to return to Cuba upon his release from prison.
The denial is “unusual,” said Horowitz. René González has dual Cuban and U.S. citizenship. “It is common for a defendant who is not a citizen of the United States to be deported and serve his supervised release, on paper only, in their home country.” He added, “René offered before his release to renounce his United States citizenship and, in exchange, to return to Cuba. The offer was not accepted by the government.”
“There is to my knowledge,” stressed Klugh, “no prior case in the history of the United States in which someone who has foreign nationality, as René has, whose family lives in a foreign country and whose wife cannot travel to the United States, has been barred from reuniting with his family.” Olga Salanueva, René González’s wife, was deported in 2000 and has since repeatedly been denied entry by Washington. Adriana Pérez, the wife of Gerardo Hernández, has also been prevented from entering the country to visit her husband for more than 13 years.
Klugh mentioned that it was also “unusual” for René González to have been put in the “hole,” or solitary confinement, the last night he spent in prison. “I have not previously encountered that occurring in any other situation,” he said.
As for the conditions of his supervised release, both lawyers said they are typical. “He cannot violate any laws and he must report to the probation officer once a month and he must maintain a residence,” explained Klugh. In addition, René González has to obtain permission to travel outside southern Florida.
On the other hand, explained Horowitz, “there are no restrictions on René’s freedom of speech, unlike when he was in jail.”
“The judge added a condition in [González’s] case that was noted from the beginning as being unusual,” said Klugh. “He was barred from associating with terrorist associations… . It’s always been perplexing as to what the meaning of that part of the order was unless it meant he was to cease investigating acts of terrorism against Cuba.”
“At this point, we’re not going to appeal the judge’s September 16 ruling to a higher court,” said Horowitz. “René has decided to let his conduct show to Judge Lenard that he is a person who deserves to be able to return to Cuba. And he is out to prove it. At the appropriate time I’ll renew my request that he be permitted to serve the rest of his supervised release in Cuba. There is no timetable for that.”
As for the legal position of the other four, Klugh explained, “They are all pursuing relief from extraordinary violations of fundamental rights to a fair trial” from “an illegitimate effort by the United States [government] to create an environment that was so hostile and prejudicial to the five that they could not possibly receive a fair trial.”
Since October 2010, each of the four has filed a habeas corpus motion requesting that his conviction and sentence be vacated, based on information that became public after the trial. Several well-known Miami journalists who published inflammatory articles about the five revolutionaries before and during the trial were paid by the U.S. government.
“We are awaiting,’ added Klugh, “a further response by the United States regarding the petitions filed by Ramón and Fernando and it is anticipated that they will file their response at the end of November.”
Richard Klugh will address a November 5 forum in solidarity with the Cuban Five in New York City.