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Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2001 10:50 AM
Subject: LA Events Demand Freedom for Miami 5, Defend Civil Liberties

Via NY Transfer News * All the News That Doesn't Fit


By Jon Hillson

LOS ANGELES, December 10 (NY Transfer)--"As a Palestinian, I know
what the people of Cuba have been through," said Michele Shehadeh, "I
know the justice of the five Cuban patriots."

Shehadeh, the west coast coordinator of the American Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, was one of several speakers who
addressed 100 people at Loyola Law School near downtown Los Angeles
on December 8 during two panels in defense of civil liberties,
democratic rights, and to demand freedom for the five Cubans unjustly
jailed in Miami on frame-up espionage.

Shehadeh, along with six Palestinians and one Kenyan, were arrested
in 1987 after a three-and-a-half year FBI investigation, on charges
of illegal support to "world communism" -- in this case, the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestinian. This "crime" was later
adjusted to support for "world terrorism." The resulting case of the
"LA 8" garnered widespread support, defeating every effort by
Washington to deport the activists. "The case is still pending,"
Shehadeh said, "but we keep fighting. Activists have been in tough
spots before and they have overcome. The five Cubans will also

The five, Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon
Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, were convicted in June of "conspiracy
to commit espionage" and related charges. Three face up to life
imprisonment, and the remaining two could be sentenced to up to ten
years for failing to register as "foreign agents." Gerardo also faces
a second life sentence for "conspiracy to commit murder" in
connection with the 1996 downing of two Brothers to the Rescue planes
which, against official Cuban warnings, violated the island's

Sentencing in federal district court begins on December 11 -- with
the Cubans accorded separate days for the judicial decree -- and will
conclude two weeks later.

The Los Angeles protest event was supported by a dozen prominent
individuals and political organizations, including the National
Lawyers Guild, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El
Salvador, Korean Immigrant Workers Association, International Action
Center, Socialist Workers Party, Ramona Ripston, executive director
of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and
Angela Sanbrano, executive director of the Central American Resource
Center, the major immigrant rights center in the city. The events
were organized by the Los Angeles Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba.

Kathy Masaoka, Chair of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, told the
crowd that it must "speak out in this climate of repression and
fear." Masaoka's grandfather was in the first wave of 1,300
Japanese-Americans picked up by the U.S. government in the hours
after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, a number that would eventually
reach 120,000. "No one reached out to them. Today, it must be
different. We must defend all those under attack," she said. The NCCR
eventually won a measure of justice for the survivors of the
concentration camps: a $20,000 penalty from Washington.

She told the audience she had learned of the case of the five Cuban
patriots in Cuba earlier this year, on the first Japanese-American
delegation ever to Cuba. "We learned their story, we defend them, and
we should support them," she said. It is necessary to "speak out in
an atmosphere of fear and intimidation so that what happened during
World War II does not happen again -- and it can happen if we don't

Gloria La Riva, National Coordinator of the National Committee to
Free the Five, reported on the current stage of the fight. She urged
activists to call President George W. Bush as sentencing begins to
demand freedom for the five. "We do this not because we believe Bush
will listen, but to let him and the government know that people are
watching, are aware, and are active. It will only be the struggle of
the people that will win their freedom."

The faces of the five looked out at the audience from a nine foot
banner, in the montage of Cuba's flag, constructed by Cuban-American
artist Oscar Albuerne. "This work is difficult," La Riva told the
crowd. She urged them to study the facts of the case, and to win
support for the five. The struggle to free them, she said, "will be a
long fight."

Andres Gomez, national coordinator of the Antonio Maceo Brigade,
detailed the history of U.S.-based terrorism against Cuba, from the
earliest days of the revolution. Figures of death and damage "would
have been worse, would have been higher, if there had been no Cubans
inside the terrorist organizations who could report to their
government on such violent plans."

"The Five," Gomez said, "were protecting their country. Their mission
was to save lives."

This theme was explained with powerful youthful spirit by Meena
Haghmoradkhnan, an 18-year-old senior at Costa High School, who
participated in the second Cuba-US Youth Exchange last summer, and
joined 1.2 million Cubans in Havana on July 26 who demanded freedom
for the five. Learning about their work and duties, and of the role
of terrorist groups in the United States attacking Cuba, she became
convinced of their innocence and the justice of their cause. "It's
not just Fidel and Che who are heroes," she said, "but the everyday
Cuban people, the average people, people like the Miami Five. We have
to learn to appreciated these everyday people who are the real heroes
of Cuba, the kind of people we marched with. The Miami Five didn't do
anything wrong! They were right!"

Gomez conveyed the facts of the case and the demand for freedom to
thousands more in an interview on Enfoque Latino, a popular local
radio show. The event was recorded for Santa Barbara public access
television and KPFX radio. Earlier in the day, Gomez spoke at an
opening panel on escalating attacks on democratic rights, with ACLU
staff attorney Ben Wizner and National Lawyer's Guild Attorney Carol
Sobel. This discussion connected the kind of "investigation" and
prosecution of the Miami Five with the anti-democratic decrees and
legislation that have been put in place by the Bush administration
and Congress since the September 11 attacks. The frame-up of the five
was the chronicle of current repression foretold.

Gomez also met with local activists and spoke at a benefit attended
by 30 people in San Pedro to raise funds for Cuba's Hurricane
Michelle relief efforts. At all these events, Gomez reported on
upcoming activities in Miami in defense of the yhe Five, including a
protest news conference to demand their freedom on December 12, and a
December 16 public meeting at a Miami hotel.

The Los Angeles Free the Five forum opened with an appeal for
solidarity from sisters Esperanza Hernandez and Guadalupe Hernandez,
two sewing machine operators who are part of ongoing protests against
Forever 21, a national clothing manufacturer based in Los Angeles
which produces a youth-oriented clothing line. The company, which
sub-contracts work to area garment shops has refused to pay the
salaries of hundreds of sub-minimum wage immigrant workers. "We are
fighting for dignity because we are tired of being exploited,"
Guadalupe said, to applause.

"The same can be said of the Miami Five," the representative of the
Cuba coalition said in introducing the event. "And the slogan of the
garment workers fighting for justice -- si se puede -- is that of all
those who fight to free the Miami Five."

For more information on defense of the Miami Five contact:

Free the Five Committee
2849 Mission Street, #24
San Francisco, CA  94110

Miami Coalition to End the Embargo of Cuba
P.O. Box 370867
Miami, FL 33137-0867

Copyright (c) 2001 by Jon Hillson and NY Transfer News.

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