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Monday, 06 October 2008 00:00

The campaign grows


ROB MILLER explains why the Miami Five prisoners have been grabbing headlines.

THE case of the Miami Five and their fight for justice has been raised around worldwide in recent weeks.

From the TUC to MPs to the upper reaches of the British and US governments, the five's case has been put high up the agenda.

The Miami Five, as they are known here, have been imprisoned in the US since 1998. They were found guilty of "acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government" and related charges.

They had, in fact, been monitoring extreme right-wing groups operating out of Florida responsible for launching terrorist attacks against Cuba, including the world's first terror attack on an airliner in 1976 which killed 73 people.

In September, the TUC, representing the six million UK trade union members, passed a unanimous motion moved by Unite and UNISON. It called for a prompt retrial of the five in any venue other than Miami, full visiting rights for all of the families and support for an autumn campaign of action to mark the 10th anniversary of their imprisonment.

At the Labour Party conference in Manchester, two of the wives of the five, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, addressed a packed fringe meeting alongside Unite joint general secretaries Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, CWU leader Billy Hayes and Parliamentary Labour Party chairman Tony Lloyd MP.

Almost 350 people attended, including trade union leaders, MPs and members of the Labour Party national executive committee, making this one of the largest fringes of the entire conference.

United Steelworkers Union international president Leo Gerard spoke and pledged the support of his 800,000 members in the US and Canada. In fact, the developing links between UK and US unions have led to a number of major US unions taking up the case directly with the US government for the first time.

Importantly, Shane Enright of Amnesty International also spoke and AI has in the last few days launched the first stage in its public campaign for visiting rights for Salanueva and Perez.

The appeal is being sent out in the October edition of Wire magazine that reaches up to 2.2 million Amnesty members worldwide via over 100 national chapters.

It is now less than a month to the US presidential election. Whether it is McCain or Obama who emerges as victor, one of the first tasks that they will face will be to address the case of the Miami Five.

The object of our campaign is to raise the awareness of this case so that the public outcry for their release becomes deafening and that the just case for visitation rights is already "on the table" for the incoming US administration.

Many Star readers will know of the campaign that led to Angela Davis being acquitted over 30 years ago. Our task must be to emulate this. In every union branch, political and campaigning group, the case of the Miami Five must be raised.

What will McCain or Obama mean for Cuba?

MIAMI FIVE defence attorney Leonard Weinglass reflected recently on the Angela Davis case with which he was also involved.

"She was acquitted largely because of the international outcry about her case. In the other political cases I have been involved in, public support has been crucial.

"The Supreme Court this year will get 8,000 petitions for review. They will take fewer than 100. Our case will only be taken if it becomes a known case, a rather famous case, then it will be reviewed, so public support is essential to our work."

Within the last week, full-page adverts have been placed in the Guardian, the Independent, New Statesman and the Morning Star. Over 100 prominent figures from all walks of public life openly pledged their support for visitation rights for the families of the Miami Five. Following this, the BBC and other global media outlets ran the story, bringing further exposure to the case across the world.

The case of the Miami Five is important not only for the sake of those directly involved - the men and their families - but for the US itself.

This case is another litmus test of how the next US administration will conduct itself. Isolation or engagement?

In Miami, home of the vociferous Cuban-American community, a demonstration took place recently against hard-line travel restrictions to the island.

The recent hurricanes which have wrought such damage to Cuba have left Republican presidential candidate John McCain unmoved. He continues to follow the same path as Bush, the same policy towards Cuba which has impacted on Cuba and the US.

The suggestion from the Obama camp of a 90-day lifting of the blockade to allow humanitarian aid to reach Cuba was rejected by the incumbent lame duck in the White House. The real test for Barack Obama will be whether he is prepared to act as he has said he will do if he emerges as the victor in November.

The campaign for justice for the five does not stop here. Tomorrow, a vigil will be held outside the US embassy between 6-7.30pm. Join the vigil and bring others.

Prior to this, a delegation will present a thousands-strong petition to the US embassy calling for justice for the Miami Five and their families.

On the day itself, a conference will be held at the Law Society to further publicise the case amongst lawyers and the trade unions. Please ring the Cuba Solidarity Campaign office if you would like to attend. Come to the vigil, join the campaign, raise the case of the Miami 5.

Rob Miller is director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Contact (020) 8800-0155 for more details. www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/miami5

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