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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts

Higher Quality Audio files available info@prisonradio.org

Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal/Prison Radio

"Cuban Five Interview w/ Catherine Murphy and Leonard Weinglass"

www.cubanow.net & www.freethefive.org


1) 24:17 Mp3 PSA

  
Dear friends of the Cuban Five:The following interview conducted by Catherine Murphy in August 2005.It is an excellent exchange with Leonard Weinglass that informs the Cuban Five's supporters and readers in general about the political context of their struggle for freedom and against terrorism. Interview with Leonard WeinglassBy Catherine Murphy Caracas. August 2005 CM: Good morning, Leonard Weinglass. Please talk about how you first got involved in this case of the Cuban Five. LW:  I had heard about the case, of course, and was following the trial. The trial was defended in Miami by public defenders. I kept abreast of what was happening, and was shocked and appalled at the convictions. One of the attorneys for the Five became ill, and really wasn't able to continue in the case. It was at that point, that the family of Antonio Guerrero, my client, contacted me through a law firm in Havana. There are law firms in Havana - much to the shock of many Americans - and there is an independent bar, which represents people in criminal cases. One of the large Havana firms reached out to me and asked me if I would consider taking the case. I went to Cuba and met with family and with the law firm, and I agreed to take the case. CM: The Five just won an enormous legal victory in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. What is the significance of this victory in the current political context? LW: Well to begin with, in the current political context it's great to have any victory at all! It's been quite a dry season the last several years, and to finally have a victory in the case of the Five really has heartened people and lifted spirits.  Its very good in terms of the Cuban reaction has been remarkable. It strengthens the Cuban people. It's a follow-up to the Elian Gonzalez case. They brought Elian home, and now there's hope that they will bring the Five home as well. So it has a major impact on Cuban and on the Cuban people. In terms of its narrower context - the legal profession and the judicial issue, the case represents a landmark decision. There has never been a case before this one where an appeals court on the federal level reversed a federal trial judge who refused to change venue. So this became a first. It's a landmark decision. It's also historic because it's the longest written opinion on the issue of venue. And it goes much deeper than all the other opinions. Most opinions look at the question of whether twelve people in a jury box said they could be fair. In this case, the three-judge panel said that that wasn'tsufficient.You must look at the social and political matrix of a community, and that will tell you better than the answers from jurors whether or not to the community can be fair in a particular case. This will help many cases, many pending so- called terrorism cases in United States where people are being tried In the midst of communities that cannot be fair. So, the case politically in the broader sense, in Cuba, legally, judicially, has a major impact on our current situation. CM: Were you surprised at the verdicts? Was it a surprise for you and the families? LW: I have to be honest with you. I was very hopeful of the verdict. Anybody who read the briefs that were filed with this court from both sides - and we circulated the briefs to various law schools - got back unanimous decisions from the various Deans and professors of constitutional law, who told me that it would be inconceivable to lose this case. Yet, of course the reality is that many cases that should be won are lost because of the climate that exists. So I was legally and professionally very hopeful, because I knew our case was very strong, but I was also aware of the climate, and I was surprised. CM: I'm also curious about the timeline of the case. The Five were arrested in 1998, but not actually convicted until 2001, soon after the September 11 attacks. What is the relevance of that time line? LW:  Yes, they were arrested 1998, but they went to trial in 2000. The trial ended in June of 2001, but they were not sentenced until after September 11, in December of 2001. So 9/11 impacted their sentencing, which was very crucial, and they all received maximum sentences. They received maximum sentences from a judge who had indicated throughout the trial that she was aware that these men entered the United States without weapons or explosives, that during their stay in the United States they did no property damage. They injured no one. They threatened no one. Therefore, they were information-gatherers. And they were information-gathers of particular groups, namely the mercenary groups that had formed in Southern Florida. The judge was very aware of all of this, and had become educated in theprocess of the trial. The judge was also educated, as the appellate court was, on the 40-year long history of terrorist actions against Cuba. So there were indications, and hope, that the judge, given that education and that background and her opinions on who they men were and what they were about, would give lenient sentences. Instead she gave maximum sentences to everyone, including my client who was one of the three who got life, and who the government conceded in their opening statement that they didn't have a single document of classified material on. This is the first conspiracy to commit espionage case in our history, without the single classified document. The Five are serving the same sentences as Robert Hansen, and some of themost to notorious spies in our history, who gave hundreds if not thousands of top-secret classified documents to the Soviet Union. The judge gave the same life sentence to my client who didn't give over a single document. CM: What is the relation of this case to this Posada Carriles case, which is getting mainstream US press now? LW:  The case is certainly related, even in the appeals decision that we got this week. In footnote 170 of that opinion they referred to Posada Carriles, and refer to him correctly as a terrorist. I think the Posada Carriles case has surfaced, even before this decision, the hypocrisy of admitting Posada Carriles while at the same time putting the Five away for up-to-life sentences. The Posada deportation case really brings it all to the surface in a way that the Five case standing alone was not able to. So it's been a big benefit tohave the two cases now paralleled in the media, with commentary about the hypocrisy of admitting a terrorist and locking up the anti-terrorists. CM: Do you think there is a case for his extradition to Venezuela? LW: From what I know, there clearly is a basis to extradite him. However, I think, having done deportation cases, and the LA Eight case in particular, where we're in our eighth year of fighting a deportation, I think what the hope of the US government is, given that Carriles' health is poor, to draw out the deportation proceedings as long as possible and hope that he'll pass away before they actually have to make a decision as to his deportation. CM: Many groups who have mobilized around the world to support the Five. What relevance have national and international support organizations had to the case? LW: The judges of the 11th Circuit followed the law, and reported honestly on the facts. That's what an international support network can do for you. The worst thing that can happen to anyone in the American criminal justice system is to be ignored and to be alone. The best thing that can happen is to have a support base and people watching, because it's only when people are watching and are aware that the system functions the way it ought to function. That happened in the case of the Five. I believe it happened because of the large domestic and international support. I always refer to the Angela Daviscase, which I was involved in also, in which the major international support played a key role. Angela Davis was tried in the early 70s, an African- American woman, a member of the Communist Party, accused of aconspiracy to killing a judge, tried before an all-white jury, and acquitted on the first vote. I think that was a testament to the organizing in that case and I think the same can be said for the case of the Cuban Five. CM: How is the issue of the families and the families' rights to visitation being received by the US public? Is the US populace sensitive to this issue? LW: I think there is sensitivity to this issue, and it's a growing sensitivity.  I think we'll see more of it as the case generates more and more attention.  I was told that the decision of the 11th Circuit has been written about in 317 articles, which is more than the case has generated in seven years. So I think there is going to be more attention on the case, which will bring more attention to thefamilies.  But just looking at it from the legal side. Amnesty International and now the UN Subgroup on Arbitrary Detentions have both issued rulings on the violations of International Human Rights law by precluding the visits of the wives to see their husbands. It is a clear violation on Intl Human Rights Law.  I also point out that it is a violation of the Bureau of Prison regulations.  Federal Prison regulations require that the families be able to visit, and the answer is very clear. Prison administrators have learned over the years that as the family is able to visit, the morale of the prisoners and therefore the morale of the prison itself, is elevated. So it's in the interest of the prisons to encourage family visits. And it's even been codified into law. So to preclude the two wives from visiting isA violation not only of the constitutional rights of the inmates, but of the Bureau of Prisons regulations. So I think there will be more and more attention paid to it. Which is good because now that the cases have been reversed, I think there will be a major push to let the wives visit their husbands. CM: What do you see as a lasting significance of the issues that are being debated here in terms of the War against Terrorism in the US? What lasting relevance to us this case have for people in the United States? LW: The case really does surfaced the history of the 40-year relationsbetween the US and Cuba. It reminds me so much of the Pentagon paperstrial, which I was involved with and which surfaced the whole 40-year history of the US and Vietnam - 46 volumes of materials laid out that history. And this case is the same. It brings to light the whole buildup of the Paramilitary forces in Southern Florida, the support they receive from the 650,000 exiles who live there, the camps that are present.  On US TV we see over and over again replays of the camps in Afghanistan where the Bin Laden forces were allegedly trained. Well, the Miami people have the same on their televisions. They have on TV the camps that exist in Southern Florida. They are men in uniforms wearing camouflage suits and carrying automatic weapons, and it'sshown on Florida TV. Which incidentally is picked up in Cuba. So the Cubans for years have picked up television with images of the people who have been trained to come at them. And over 3,000 people have been killed in forty yars. Many thousands more have been injured. So, this case surfaces that in away that was hidden from the American public. Most Americans don't know that the United States is host to mercenary forces that operate out of our territory and attack another country with which we are not at war. This is in clear violation of the neutrality act legally, and it's something that would betotally offensive, I believe, to most Americans if it surfaced as of fact. And this case is doing that. CM: Is there are working definition in the US of the word terrorism? Has anyone demanded a definition? LW: There are definitions out there, and the law attempts to codify definition, but it's difficult to do so. I know in the case of the LA Eight, for instance, we argue that the law is being selectively administered. We brought in one of the leaders of the Contra network in the war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. He testified that with government support and backing, he traveled the United States to raise money for the Contra. And then we put into evidence the Contra working book which called for attacks and the killing of lawyers, teachers, leading clerics, which clearly would satisfy any definitionOf terrorism - attacks on a civilian population designed to spread terror. And the court did make a ruling in our favor. The case was dismissed on the grounds of selective prosecution, and yet this was another episode where the government came back with a different charge and the case went on. We have tried, in many different ways and in different cases, lawyers have tried to do what your question suggests, and that is to un-mask the manipulative use of the word terrorism to achieve a political goal. CM: What are the next steps for the defense in the case of the Cuban Five? LW: There are a number of possible steps. I don't know which path will be followed.  Right now the government is seeking a delay of 30 days in which to decide whether or not to appeal the judgment of the three-judge panel. [The government prosecutors appealed the 11th Circuit Court 3-judge decision for a full-panel hearing, en banc. A decision is expected soon.] That moves it up to September 30 before we'll know what the government intends to do. If they ask the entire 11th Circuit court to review the decision, we will oppose it.  The court will make a decision as to whether or not to accept.  If the court takes it, then we will make a full new appeal in the 11th Circuit.  If the court refuses to take it, the government can then go to the Supreme Court. And once again, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not they will take it. My feeling at this point is that neither the 11th CircuitNor the Supreme Court will take the case, and the case will be remanded, or sent back to Miami for trial. CM: What will this mean if it is remanded to Miami? LW: It means that the 11th Circuit three judge panel that issued the decision will write an order which is a remand saying the case is back in Miami, and that all the convictions are set aside and it will be up to a court in Miami to assign a new venue for a second trial. CM: What do you think the request for a 30-day extension reflects?LW: I think it reflects the fact that the US Attorney in Miami must consult with and get the decision from the Justice Department in Washington as well as the office of the solicitor general in Washington before they can decide whether or not to appeal. The final decision as to whether or not the government can appeal will come out of Washington. CM: Lastly, what you most like the US public to know about this case? LW: The most important thing to know is that there are five Cuban men who provided assistance in defense of their country, which was under attack by a group of mercenaries who were terrorizing that country. The men were apprehended in Florida, and they were charged wrongly and wrongly convicted in a wrong venue, as now found by an appellate court. To force these men, who have now served seven years in maximum-security prisons, to undergo a second trial would be an injustice.  I would like people to know that these men should not have to face a second prosecution. They were wrongfully charged in the beginning, they were wrongfully convicted, and theyshould be sent home with an apology for what happened. CM: Thank you for speaking with us today, Leonard Weinglass. LW: Thank you.   Catherine Murphy650-529-0286

 

 

  

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