_ By Héctor Carballo Hechavarría
US peace activist Cindy Sheehan, a delegate from the state of California at the Seventh International Symposium for the Release of the Cuban Five that taking place in the eastern Cuban city of Holguin, surprised the Cuban people and the world with one of the most moving and symbolic gestures that has taken place over the 13 years of injustice since five Cuban antiterrorist fighters were arrested in the US.
Thousands of Holguin residents marched on Saturday along with some 300 delegates from 45 countries attending the Seventh International Symposium for the Release of the Cuban Five. The gathering raises awareness and serves as a forum to discuss new strategies for obtaining freedom of five Cuban antiterrorist fighters unjustly condemned to long terms of imprisonment in the United States.
The symposium runs through until Sunday and includes many activities in solidarity with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, sentenced after monitoring terrorist groups operating with impunity against Cuba from Miami. When they turned their information over to authorities they were arrested and have been in jail ever since. The Cuban Five were given harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to double consecutive life terms plus 15 years in a trial plagued with irregularities and held in a highly biased Miami court.
In May 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion on the case in which it concluded that US government had failed to guarantee the Cuban five a fair trial under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the USA has ratified.
Amnesty International has also ruled on the case. The organization stated in a report on the case that “having reviewed the case extensively over a number of years, [Amnesty International] believes that there are serious doubts about the fairness and impartiality of their trial which have not been resolved on appeal.
The Cuban Five have also received wide-reaching international support of other organizations and individuals. The petition for a Writ of Certiorari (leave to appeal) to the US Supreme Court was supported by amicus curiae briefs submitted on behalf of numerous organizations and individuals, including 10 Nobel prize winners, the bar associations of various countries and other legal bodies, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen, the International Federation of Human Rights and the National Jury Project offices of California, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.
The Seventh International Symposium for the Release of the Cuban Five has become a yearly event in the city of Holguin where activists from around the world meet to discuss strategies and share concerns.
Saturday’s march concluded in a downtown square where Cindy Sheehan removed a necklace that her son Casey —a US solider who died during the illegal occupation of Iraq in 2004— gave to her shortly before leaving to Iraq. Sheehan spoke to the thousands gathered about her great admiration for the struggle waged by the Cuban people for peace and justice, and presented the necklace asking only that it be returned to her when the five Cuban antiterrorists are back home in Cuba, reunited with their families.
Engraved in the necklace is a moving testimony of the great value of the jewelry, “To mom with all my love.”
Speaking to the press following the gathering, Mirtha Rodríguez, the mother of Antonio Guerrero, said that the gesture was a full of love and hope, and demonstrates the great commitment of the US mother and peace activist to carry on the struggle to raise awareness about the case of the Five in a country that has built a wall of silence around the case.
Magali Llort, the mother of Fernando Gonzalez, said that Cindy “carried the name of the American people high.”
“It give us hope and confidence that this gesture of Cindy will help move other US citizens to demand that their president release our sons and return them to Cuba,” said Magali Llort.
At the conclusion of the Seventh International Symposium for the Release of the Cuban Five, a final declaration was approved. The final declaration outlines the new actions that will be carried out including to undertake a massive letter campaign, to write to US President Obama from around the world and to mobilize religious institutions in the US and around the world to support the call for freedom for the Cuban Five.
It was also agreed that June 8, 2012 —the anniversary of the unjust guilty verdict against the five men— will serve as a day of protest and mobilization.
The delegates at the gathering also agreed to call on all young people from around the world to organize concerts from September 12 to October 6, the Day of the Victims of State Terrorism, to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban Five.