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WCC to continue pastoral accompaniment of relatives of five Cubans arbitrarily imprisoned in the US

WCC to continue pastoral accompaniment of relatives of five Cubans arbitrarily imprisoned in the US

The "Cuban Five"

28 September 2006

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will continue to offer pastoral accompaniment to the relatives of a group of imprisoned people known as the "Cuban Five", and will advocate for the relatives' right to visit them.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia announced this intention after meeting with two of the prisoners' relatives, Adriana Pérez and Magalys Llort, earlier this week in Geneva.

He explained that the Council's support will be channelled especially through the churches and ecumenical organizations in Cuba. Kobia also praised the work done by the churches in the US in accompanying the five Cubans and their relatives.

"The WCC is concerned that relatives have found it extremely difficult, if not impossible for some of them, to visit the prisoners, and will therefore strongly appeal for them to be allowed to visit the prisoners on humanitarian grounds," he said.

Kobia also recalled the opinion of the UN Working group on arbitrary detentions, which in its 2006 report states that the deprivation of liberty of the five Cubans is arbitrary. The wives of two of the prisoners have been denied US visas for the last six years.

The "Cuban Five" are five Cuban citizens imprisoned in US after being convicted by a US federal court in Miami on 8 June, 2001. The five are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

They were accused of conspiring to spy on the United States, and other related charges. The five claim they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba.

On 9 August 2005, after seven years of imprisonment, the five won an appeal when a three-judge panel in Atlanta's 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial outside Miami. Later on, the court agreed to hear the US prosecutors' appeal, and on 9 August 2006 reversed its previous decision.