Monday, December 14, 2009

Cuba seeks Nigeria's help in feud with U.S. over alleged spying

Havana is seeking Abuja's assistance in its effort to persuade the United States to release five Cubans serving life sentence jail terms for allegedly spying for their country.

Leading a delegation to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the weekend, the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Elio Savon, accused Washington of the unjust detention of the five Cubans in five different U.S. high security prisons for 11 years.

Also on the delegation is the Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship of the People - an organisation that coordinates all solidarity activities - led by Alicia Morales, who said she was in the country as part of her job schedule to brief the Nigerian people about recent developments on the campaign for the detainees to seek global support for their freedom.

The Cuban Five, were sentenced in 1998 to life imprisonment for alleged spying, which constitutes a threat to U.S. security.

Separate statements by participants comprising social fighters, trade unionists, parliament members, pacifists, party leaders, intellectuals, religious leaders and students at the 5th international colloquium "For the Release of The Cuban Five Heroes Against Terrorism" held in Holguin after the refusal by the U.S. Supreme court to review the detainees' case in June 2009.

One of the statements read in part: "To all women and men in the world, justice lovers, to the people of the United States, five courageous Cubans, Gerado, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando and Rene, have been unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. jails for more than 11 years. Their only crime has been to fight against terrorism and to defend their people's right to live in peace. While fighting terrorism and defending the fairest causes of human dignity and liberty, these five heroes harbour their entire people's decorum, as well as that of the progressive mankind."

The statement stressed that following the delay and politicisation of the process, "the most outrageous physical and mental tortures have been committed against them and their families. This is a flagrant violation of the most basic principles of international law, of established procedures with regards to due process, and of the regulations on the treatment of detainees."

By this action, the statement said the U.S. Government maintains a double standard in its policy to fight against terrorism, as it harbors, protects and supports U.S.- based 'terrorist' organisations that operate with impunity, causing victims not only among the Cuban people, but also in their countries.

Consequently, it therefore demanded that the U.S. Government should respect its own laws and act in accordance with the rules of International Law to immediately cease the systematic and repeated violations of human rights against Cuban people and their relatives as well as financial support provided to 'terrorist' organisations in that country.

The statement also called for the immediate arrest of a 'notorious terrorist', Luis Carriles for the blowing up of a Cuban airline in which 73 civilians were killed.

It added: "We call upon all honest people on our planet and especially the noble U.S. people to work intensely to disseminate the fair cause for which the Cuban Five are fighting and to demand their liberation as a way of paying tribute to decency and truth.

"All our efforts being made in the struggle for the release of the Five are intended to influence the United States, where the Big Media countries continue to snub the case of the five. We assure the Cuban Five and to everyone fighting for their freedom that we will not relent in our efforts denouncing the injustice and we will continue to fight until they return to their homeland."

He explained that the campaign for support was brought to Nigeria first "to acknowledge the solidarity" Havana enjoyed with Abuja especially with trade Unions and to update the NLC about the Cuban solidarity for the five worldwide.

He added: "First these five men went through unfair trial which was held in Miami which first of all is a hostile place. The crimes they were accused of spying and constituting a threat to the US security were never proofed and still they have been subjected to extreme cases of even two life sentences. Even an appeal court in Atlanta declared that the trial was null and void. Still nothing has been done."

The General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. John Odah, said the labour union has since 2003 during its delegates conference called for the release of the five but noted that the U.S. Government was still yet to heed the call.

However, he expressed hope that the ventilation that has been provided by the Obama administration has opened a new window of hope for the release of the five and the readiness of the NLC to seek political resolution to the matter through its international and bilateral partners.

His words: "We have been calling on the U.S. Government to release the five Cubans since 2003 and nothing has been done yet. But with the new democratic wave in the U.S. under President Barrack Obama, we are hopeful that we can adopt political solution to the matter through our international and bilateral sister organisation. The call for the release of these people is a genuine one, especially since they have been acquitted by another U.S. court. We also call on the Nigerian government to rise up and play more than passive role in this struggle."

The Guardian

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