Fifteen years ago, on Sept. 12, 1998, the FBI raided the homes of five Cuban men living in Miami, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, and indicted them on trumped-up charges of espionage conspiracy and related charges. The U.S. government knew that the Five were in the United States monitoring the actions of Miami-based, U.S.-backed terrorist Cuban exile organizations that operate with impunity against the people of Cuba. It was fully aware that the men had no weapons and had never harmed any individual.
Terrorist attacks against Cuba have killed 3,478 people and injured 2,099 due to the plots carried out by these paramilitary Miami groups. But instead of arresting the perpetrators of that violence, the U.S. government arrested and prosecuted the Cuban Five, trying them in a Miami court where it was impossible for the Five to properly defend themselves against the virulent anti-Cuba atmosphere of that city.
The FBI threatened the Five with lifetime imprisonment if they did not "cooperate" and turn against each other. René González's wife Olga Salanueva was deported before the trial because René refused to give in to U.S. pressure.
To this day, Gerardo Hernández has been denied his wife Adriana Pérez's companionship, as Washington has refused her the right to visit Gerardo for these 15 long years.
Despite the incredible cruelty by the prison and U.S. officials, the Five have stayed strong and maintained their principled stance of the right to defend their people from terrorist violence.
They were held in complete isolation for 17 months in Miami detention before trial. The inflammatory and highly prejudicial reporting by the Miami media helped condemn the Five even before the trial's conclusion.
After their conviction on June 8, 2001 on all counts, the Five issued a valiant statement "To the American people." Dated June 17, 2001, it reads in part:
"We have never done anything for money. We have always lived modestly and acted humbly, living up to the sacrifices of our own people.
"We have always been moved by a strong sentiment of human solidarity, love for our homeland and contempt for that which goes against the dignity of the human being.
"The defendants in this trial are in no way repentant of what we have done to defend our country. We declare ourselves innocent and simply take comfort in the fact that we have honored our duty to our people and our homeland.
"Our loved ones understand the depth of the ideas that guide us and they will take pride in our sacrifices for Humanity in this struggle against terrorism and for the independence of Cuba."
From Clinton to Bush to Obama, U.S. administrations have kept the Cuban Five imprisoned. But a spirited movement of supporters has arisen in the United States and worldwide, demanding the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.
On Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, throughout the island of Cuba yellow ribbons will festoon every public space, as a show of love and commitment to their Five Heroes, until they return. We invite you to also don a yellow ribbon on their behalf.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in the United States was the first organization to form in support of the Five, in late June 2001. We have dedicated ourselves to fighting for the Five's freedom until each brother is home with his beloved family and people. For more than 12 years, we have organized hundreds of forums, protests and held numerous media events to break through the U.S. media blockade of the Five's case. For almost five years we have led an extensive research effort to uncover and document the coverage during the Five's trial by Miami reporters who received U.S. government monies. Their media reports were highly prejudicial to the Five. Our work has become a major focus of the Five's Habeas Corpus appeals.
Ultimately, it is the people's movement and mobilizing efforts that will free the Cuban heroes. Each day of their imprisonment is an intolerable abuse and those of us who are free to organize must think of more actions on their behalf.
Our theme in the National Committee has always been, "when the people of the U.S. learn of the Cuban Five's anti-terrorist mission and their sacrifice, they will demand their freedom." We have been witness in countless actions of that premise. Almost universally, the response of the average person who hears of the Cuban Five has been, first, shock at the unjust punishment they have endured, and then support for their freedom.
On Sept. 12, 2013, we invite you to become part of the movement for the Cuban Five's freedom. We will provide support and ideas for how you can get involved! Contact the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 415-821-6545.
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five