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Hero's Welcome for jailed Cuban

Rene Gonzalez testifies at first day of Miami 5 justice hearing

Miami Five hero Rene Gonzalez drew a standing ovation yesterday after he told a London inquiry how he and four other anti-terrorists were jailed in the US by a kangaroo court.

Mr Gonzalez is one of five Cubans arrested in 1998, held in solitary confinement and handed a long prison sentence in 2001 for trying to prevent terrorist attacks on their homeland.

Their case was heard in Florida - where right-wing Cuban exiles planned and orchestrated the attacks with the aid of the CIA - and he said: "It was impossible for us to have a fair trial."

The case was like a "personal vendetta" by the US, Mr Gonzalez added.

He was speaking via the internet after the Home Office denied him a visa to attend at the last minute.

His testimony was followed by a long standing ovation and shouts of "Viva la revolucion Cubana!" from the audience.

The commission aims to highlight the injustice done to the five men - Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero.

On the first of two days of hearings in central London witnesses gave poignant and often emotionally charged testimonies.

Betina Corcho and Margarita Morales, the daughters of victims of two separate terrorist attacks against Cubans, shed tears as they pleaded for justice to prevail.

Rene Gonzalez walked free in 2011 and allowed to return to Cuba while Fernando Gonzalez was released last month. The other three remain in jail.

Ms Corcho compared their struggle to that of her own family and said orphaning children was a crime no matter whether it was done by a terrorist attack or by jailing their parents for life.

She demanded justice from US President Barack Obama. "Libre los cinco ya!" - free the five now - she said, sobbing into the microphone.

The commission is being overseen by internationally renowned jurists Yogesh Sabharwal, the former chief justice of India, French court of cassation judge Philippe Texier and former South African constitutional court justice Zak Yacoob.

The first session, in a packed Common Room at the Law Society, was opened by US lawyer Martin Garbus.

He replaced planned keynote speaker Rene Gonzalez after a judge on Thursday night refused to overturn the Home Office's decision to deny him a visa.

The commission also heard Cuban Interior Ministry investigator Roberto Hernandez explain the terrorist attacks which led Havana to send the five men to the US to investigate right-wing exiles in Florida.

Nearly 3,500 Cubans have died in often US-backed attacks since the socialist revolution overthrew Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

The US has sheltered terrorists including Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, former CIA operatives who killed 78 people when they blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976.

The inquiry continues today.


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