"At the end of my tour of Australia, I would like to give thanks to all the unionists and supporters of Cuba who have assisted in telling the story of the unjustly jailed Cuban Five," Aili Labanino-Cardoso, daughter of Ramon Labanino, one of five Cubans imprisoned in the US on conspiracy charges since 1998, told a forum in Sydney on August 16.
The forum, attended by about 80 people, concluded a tour of the country, organised by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, supported by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society.
The Cuban Five were living in Florida, gathering information about the activities of extreme right-wing Cuban-American organisations, which were carrying out terrorist assassinations, bombings and sabotage in revolutionary Cuba, when they were arrested by the FBI in 1998. Since 1959, nearly 3500 people have been killed in such attacks, most originating from the US.
The five were tried and convicted before a prejudiced federal court in Miami, on charges that included conspiracy to commit espionage and, in the case of Gerardo Hernandez, conspiracy to commit murder. The Cuban Five proudly admitted they were working for the Cuban government to try to prevent future murderous acts from taking place.
They were given long sentences, including a double life sentence for Gerardo Hernandez. Two of the five have recently been released after serving their full terms, and returned to Cuba.
"My father and the others were subject to the longest trial in US history," Labanino-Cardoso told the forum. "After conviction, they were taken to five different jails in five states, with no communication allowed between them.
"The United Nations has declared the Cuban Five proceedings to be arbitrary and unjust. Amnesty International has twice called for the release of the five.
"There are now more than 300 solidarity committees with the Cuban Five in 100 countries. Ten Nobel Prize winners have supported them. Churches, unions and many presidents of Latin American countries have urged the US government to free them.
“Constant rallies outside US embassies around the world, and all forms of international public pressure, have achieved some gains. Sentences were reduced for three of the prisoners.
"The two who have been released have now become leaders in the campaign for the freedom of the other three. But we must not stop our work and wait for the end of the remaining sentences.”
She recounted the emotional story of visiting her father in a Texas prison, and the inspiration he provided to herself and her family in their long separation. "My father taught us to really value our freedom," she said.
She concluded her talk by reading out a letter from her father to supporters of the Cuban Five in Australia. A month of international activities from September 12 to October 6 are planned to highlight the campaign to free the Five.
[For more information on the Cuban Five, click here.]