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Locals join global call to free ‘Cuban five’

Sep 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Julie Web-Pullman (centre): Calling on the US to free the Cuban five.

WELLINGTONIANS have played their part in sending a message to Barack Obama that he must release five Cubans the US has charged with spying.

The five were arrested on September 12, 1998, by the FBI in Miami.

Eleven years later, on the anniversary of their arrest, a small group of protesters gathered outside the American Embassy in Thorndon.

“Today is an international day of action,” says Julie Web-Pullman, national co-ordinator of the Free the Five Committee. There are committees in 80 countries still protesting the arrests.

The five, Geraldo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González, were sent to the US by their government in 1995.

Ms Web-Pullman says the men were not spying on the United States, but infiltrating terrorist groups. They gave the information they uncovered to the FBI and US officials, she says, but were then arrested. The terrorist groups were unobstructed in Miami.

There was a huge atmosphere of anti-Cuban sentiment in Miami at the time, says Ms Web-Pullman, and at the first appeal there was a unanimous decision that, because of the venue, it was impossible to get a fair trial.

That was overturned after a US government appeal.

It goes to show the “hypocrisy” of the US war on terror, says Ms Web-Pullman, because they are imprisoning people fighting terrorism.

“It’s a very big issue because of the ramifications for other countries with similar legal systems.”

Ms Web-Pullman says the international protest was held to encourage president Obama and his administration’s “best endeavours to change American foreign policy into something that even vaguely resembles something just and … following the basic presets of international law”.

Wellington groups concerned about this and other issues in Cuba and Latin America include the Wellington Cuba Friendship Society . See also the society’s Google group.

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