Friday, June 13, 2008
Picket lines back call to release Cuban 5
BY BEN JOYCE
Supporters of the Cuban Five demonstrated in a number of cities around the world June 6 to demand the release of the five, and to protest the ruling of a federal court of appeals that upheld their convictions. The Cuban Five have been incarcerated in U.S. prisons since 1998. They were railroaded to jail on frame-up charges that included failure to register as foreign agents, conspiracy to commit espionage, and other conspiracy charges. The five were denied bail and held in solitary confinement for 17 months before being convicted in a trial that was characterized by the use of “secret evidence.”. Several dozen people took part in a picket line and rally in downtown San Francisco to protest the ruling. Speakers addressing the rally included Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Five, and Alicia Jrapko of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. Jrapko spoke on the phone with Gerardo Hernández, one of the five, prior to the rally. She reported that he told her, “We’ll do all the time we have to do, 30 years, 40, whatever, and as long as a single one of you is outside resisting, we are also going to resist, until justice is done.” Hernández said he wasn’t surprised by the court ruling. “This is the same justice system that has incarcerated Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and the Puerto Rican political prisoners for more than 20 years,” he said. Following the speakers, organizers played a recorded message from Abu-Jamal, a Black rights activist facing execution after being framed up by Philadelphia police in 1981. Alianza Martiana, a Cuban American coalition that favors normalization of relations with Cuba, held a press conference in Miami to protest the decision. In New York, more than 60 protestors picketed at the Federal Building. The picket featured signs reading “Free the Cuban Five now!” and “Visas for the wives of the Cuban Five”! A rally following was addressed by attorney Lynne Stewart, Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Róger Calero, and others. “The case of the five is an example of how the legal system and prison system is used by the ruling class to keep working people in check,” said Calero. He pointed to the growing prison population in the United States and how workers are often targeted by the same measures used against the five.
Actions in support of the Cuban Five also took place in London; Montreal; Boston; Los Angeles; Seattle; Minneapolis; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Stockholm, Sweden.
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