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----- Original Message -----
From: NY Transfer News
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2001 4:33 PM
Subject: [CubaNews] Miami 5: Herald Recounts Bizarre Scene in Courtroom

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

[The Brothers to the rescue thugs present a "plea" but Gerardo
Hernandez offers a "diatribe." The words "patriot" and "extremist"
are in quotation marks when Cuban say them, etc., etc...  And of
course, no one on whom Uncle $am smiles can ever be a terrorist.

Without further comment, we present the weird article produced by the
Miami Herald, which promulgates the myth that Gerardo Hernandez was
sentenced to life in prison for killing gusanos in Brothers to
the Rescue Planes in February, 1996.  Apparently the judge was under
the same delusion, if the coverage of her statements is accurate.
She also seems to think that the Cuban military could have simply
ordered the planes to land and taken the gusanos into cuwstody! What
planet is this woman living on? Guess that's what the US should have
done on September 11th, also, and saved everyone a lot of grief.

Unlike Isabel Garcia-Sarza's Reuter's report just posted, the Herald
avoids emphasizing the word 'conspiracy' which of course was the
actual charge.  The obviously hysterical atmosphere in the Miami
courtroom, during the trial and during sentencing arguments, should
be sufficient evidence alone for the convictions to the thrown out on
appeal.  The arrests themselves were patently political, but even
granting the legitimacy of the arrests and charges -- a big leap --
there was absolutely no excuse for denying a change of venue and
trying these people in the 3-ring circus that is Miami. ]

source - JosePertierra@aol. com

The Miami Herald - December 13, 2001

Cuban spy gets life for 1996 shoot-down [sic]

Maximum penalty for "patriot"

by Gail Epstein Nieves

In front of his mother and his Cuban compatriots, spymaster Gerardo
Hernandez a convicted murderer in the United States but a patriot
-- in his homeland -- was sentenced Wednesday to two life terms, the
maximum possible punishment and the outcome sought by tearful relatives of four men killed in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down. U. S.
District Judge Joan Lenard meted out the sentence after hearing
gruelingly emotional pleas from the Brothers relatives and a
40-minute diatribe from Hernandez, 36, a career Cuban intelligence
agent who supervised other South Florida-based spies.

Hernandez's speech defiantly condemned his prosecutors, jurors,
Brothers' founder Jose Basulto, U. S.  foreign policy and -- most of
all -- the Cuban exile community, but acknowledged no guilt for

Lenard disagreed, finding that despite several "wrongful and
provocative" violations of Cuban airspace by Brothers, a
search-and-rescue group, Cuba's act of blasting two Cessnas from the
sky was not a reasonable response and deserved to be fully punished.
Hernandez conspired with his bosses in Havana to murder the fliers,
the jury found.


"What more could they have done?" Lenard said, repeating a question
that Hernandez's lawyer, Paul McKenna, posed about the Cuban
response.  "They could have brought the planes down and taken those
persons into custody. "The actions of the planes in February 1996
were much less extreme than the actions taken by this defendant and
others in executing a conspiracy to commit murder," she said.

Fliers Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Pena and Pablo
Morales perished in the shoot-down over international waters.  Their
bodies were never recovered -- "pulverized up in the air," Morales'
frail mother, Eva Barba, cried to the judge, prompting sniffles
around the courtroom.


Michael Mendez, Costa's nephew, told the judge that while some people
call his uncle a martyr, he disagrees.  The dictionary, he said,
defines the word as someone who chooses to die.  "He never chose to
die.  Mr.  Hernandez made that choice for him," Mendez said.

Outside the courtroom, relatives of the dead men said they were happy
with the sentence and the trial but they hope the government will
continue to pursue Cuban President Fidel Castro and others who gave
orders or fired missiles in the attack. "We have a life sentence of
our own," said Maggie Khuly, Alejandre's sister.  "We will never stop
our fight for justice until every person responsible for the murders"
is held accountable. U. S.  Attorney Guy Lewis, as is his policy,
wouldn't say whether an indictment against Castro is contemplated.

But he said Hernandez's life sentences send a message to other spies
that they will be punished if they're caught.  The case was
prosecuted by Caroline Heck Miller, John Kastrenakes and David


Two jurors who watched the sentencing also applauded the sentence.
Eugene Yagle and David G.  Buker said that despite Hernandez's
assertions to the contrary, he received a fair trial. Hernandez, the
most culpable of five spies convicted after a six-month trial that
ended in June, was also sentenced to life for espionage conspiracy.

Evidence showed that he supervised other spies in their efforts to
infiltrate U. S. military bases, to obtain national security secrets
and to discredit Cuban exile groups. The spies disputed the charges.
While they acknowledged they were Cuban intelligence agents, they
claimed they were sent to South Florida to protect Cuba from a U. S.
attack and from "extremist" Cuban exiles believed responsible for
hotel bombings in Havana.  Lenard said Hernandez's two life sentences
would run concurrently.

There is no early release provision under federal rules, meaning
Hernandez could die behind bars. McKenna, Hernandez's lawyer, said
the life sentencewas not unexpected. "With big-league cases you get
big-league sentences," he said, promising an appeal based on what he
called insufficient evidence.

The chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, Dagoberto
Rodriguez, said the sentence was "the result of the thirst for
vengeance among the anti-Cuban circles in the United States," the
Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported Wednesday night.

Rodriguez made the comment during an on-the-air telephone
conversation with panelists in the Information Round Table, broadcast
regularly on Cuban radio and television.  The spies are a cause
celebre on the island.


The Cuban press spent the previous several days preparing the nation
for the worst. "Judging by what happened [Tuesday] at the sentencing
hearing against Gerardo Hernandez, one cannot expect the least sign
of benevolence from American justice," the Communist Party daily
Granma said Wednesday in an article titled

"Mercilessness won't break the morale of Gerardo and his companions.
"Spy Ramon Labanino is scheduled to be sentenced today and the other
three spies in coming days and weeks.


Hernandez, a short, balding man with a goatee, stood erect with his
hands clasped behind his back as Lenard pronounced sentence.  Minutes
earlier, Hernandez, a captain in the Cuban military, finished his
speech by quoting American patriot Nathan Hale: "I regret I have but
one life to give for my country. "

Roberto Gonzalez, brother of spy Rene Gonzalez, called Hernandez's
speech "a marvelous one" and said "anyone with intelligence
understands the meaning of what he was saying. "Hernandez's mother,
Carmen Nordelo, was flown in from Havana along with the mothers of
four other spies to attend the sentencing.

They sat on the opposite side of the courtroom from the Brothers'
relatives.  All declined comment under the careful watch of escorts
from the Cuban Interests Section.  Lenard said she was struck by the
tense distance apparent between both sides.  "There are many sad
ironies in this case," Lenard said, reflecting on the loving comments
made by relatives of both the shoot-down victims and of Hernandez.

While considering their remarks, she said, "I thought how much all of
these persons come from the same fold, from the same culture, and how
far apart they are. "Lenard added: "The distance between Cuba and the
United States seems much farther today than the 90 miles that
separate the Florida Keys and Havana.  Whatever the distance, I'm
sure the Florida Straits are filled with the tears of mothers from
both the United States and Cuba. "


Before his arrest in Miami in September 1998, Hernandez passed
himself off to neighbors in Northeast Miami-Dade as Puerto Rican
Manuel Viramontes, a single man with an ex-wife in Mexico.  But
Hernandez actually has been married for 13 years to a woman in Cuba,
Adriana Perez. Neighbors thought Viramontes was a freelance graphic
designer for advertising agencies.

His building manager said he saw him working on an "old lousy
computer. " It was that computer -- and hundreds of computer
diskettes created on it -- that unlocked the key to the spy ring,
codenamed La Red Avispa, or the Wasp Network.  For unknown reasons,
Hernandez and some of the other spies kept years worth of coded
communications between themselves and their Havana intelligence
bosses on computer disks.

FBI agents secretly copied those disks. After the four-year
investigation broke, experts were able to break the codes, providing
them with thousands of pages of secret intelligence communications --
the road map followed by prosecutors in the case.

[Herald staff writer Tere Figueras and translator Renato Perez
contributedto this report.]

(c) 2001 The Miami Herald and wire service sources.

[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
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