Is it coincidence or conspiracy?
Supporters of five Cuban intelligence agents now serving lengthy sentences in US federal prison following controversial espionage convictions, say federal government documents detailing payments made by a US government-run anti-Castro propaganda operation to prominent Miami-area journalists prove a conspiracy.
Articles by those journalists and others, a federal appeals court once noted, contributed significantly to inflaming "pervasive community prejudice" in Miami which made it impossible for the agents known as the Cuban Five to receive a fair trial.
Others, however, claim it's just coincidence that the same journalists who were paid $1,125 to $58,600 to appear on anti-Castro programs produced by the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting before and during the trial for the Cuban Five also published scandalous articles about the Five in an influential Spanish language newspaper owned by the Miami Herald and in other local media.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, during a recent press conference in Washington, released documents listing both the amounts of federal funds paid to the journalists and the articles they published.
"This is a most blatant and outrageous example of government influence destroying the right to a fair trial and the right to appeal," said Gloria La Riva, Coordinator of the National Committee.
"During the pre-trial period there were hundreds of articles on the Cuban Five and not one was favorable," La Riva said.
La Riva, in her remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, said the payments to journalists, funneled through Radio and TV Marti, violated federal law banning domestic government propaganda.
The National Committee along with the National Lawyers Guild, the Partnership for Civil Justice and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition are calling upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take immediate action to correct the unjust convictions of the Cuban Five two of whom are serving life sentences.
The eight-month long trial for the Cuban Five that ended with their convictions in June 2001 is widely condemned as unfair partly due to the acid nature of the anti-Cuban Five news coverage that saturated Miami, where the trial was held despite repeated defense requests to have the proceeding moved away from a city containing America's largest anti-Castro Cuban population.
A May 2005 legal analysis of the Cuban Five case conducted by the United Nation's Human Rights Commission proclaimed the original trial "did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality" required for fair trials. The Commission's report called for a new trial.
The US federal appeals court panel that ordered a new trial for the Cuban Five in August 2005 concluded that extensive pre-trial publicity and publicity during the trial, coupled with prosecutorial misconduct, created a "perfect storm" of gale-force unfairness against the defendants....
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