The Trial

In September 1998, five Cuban men were arrested in Miami by FBI agents and kept in isolation cells for 17 months before their case was even brought before a court. Their mission in the United States was monitoring the activities of the groups and organizations responsible of terrorist activities against Cuba.

All of them were accused of the vague crime of conspiracy against the United States.  Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, were additionally charged of Conspiracy to commit espionage. The US government never accused them of actual espionage, nor did it affirm that real acts of espionage had been carried out, as no classified document had been confiscated from them.

In spite of the vigorous objections raised by the Five’s defense, the case was tried in Miami, Florida, a community that is home to more than half a million Cuban exiles with a long history of hostility toward the Cuban government, which, in this case, prevented the holding of a fair trial.

The trial, which lasted over six months, from November 26, 2000 to June 8, 2001, became the longest trial that the United States had known until then. More than 119 volumes of testimony and over 20,000 pages of documents were complied, including the testimonies of three retired Army generals and a retired admiral, who agreed that, did not existed evidence of espionage.

Near the trial’s conclusion, when the case was about to be presented to the jury for its consideration, the US government recognized in written that it had failed to prove the main charge of conspiracy to commit murder  against Gerardo Hernandez, alleging that it was facing an "insurmountable obstacle" in connection with winning the case.

The jury nonetheless found the Five guilty of all charges, under intense pressure brought to bear on them by the local media.  

Found guilty, the Five were given unprecedented long sentences:  a total of 4 life terms plus 77 years and imprisoned in five completely separate maximum security prisons, without any communication between them.

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo     2 life terms plus 15 years

Ramón Labañino Salazar         1 life term plus 18 years

Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez     1 life term plus 10 years

Fernando González Llort           19 years

René González Sehwerert         15 years

After seeking maximum sentences, the prosecution introduced in court proceedings its theory of "incapacitation". In addition to the exorbitant sentences imposed on the accused, they were to be subjected to very specific restrictions after their release: “As a further special condition of supervised release the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, and organized crime figures are known to be or frequent”.

The charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder represented for three of them life sentences, being the first people ever to be sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage in the United States in a case where no secret document was ever handled.

Who are they?

René González Fernando González Antonio Guerrero Ramón Labañino Gerardo Hernández

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