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Urgent concerns with US over treatment of 5 Cubans

Amnesty International raise "urgent concerns" with the US over treatment of five Cuban prisoners

Five Cuban men held in the US for the past 7 years on various charges of espionage were denied a "fair and impartial" trial according to a letter from Amnesty International made public today.

The letter, sent from the international human rights group to the US State Department, is a hard hitting condemnation of the United States' treatment of the five men and their families.

AI accuse the US of breaking international human rights standards by repeatedly denying visas for family members to visit the prisoners:

"the long-term, permanent denial of visits from their immediate families has caused substantial hardship to René González and Gerardo Hernández beyond the penalties imposed.....this measure is unnecessarily punitive and contrary both to standards for the humane treatment of prisoners and to states’ obligation to protect family life."

The letter from Susan Lee, Amnesty International Americas Regional Program Director, also questions the fairness of the original Miami based trial of the Five

"Such denial of family visits for convicted prisoners would represent a substantial hardship in any case. This is of even more urgent concern in the present cases given the serious questions which have been raised about the fairness of the convictions."

In August 2005, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of the prisoners and ordered a retrial. This was based on a finding that the pervasive community prejudice against the Cuban government and its agents in the trial venue of Miami, and the publicity and events surrounding the trial, created a situation where they were unable to obtain a fair and impartial hearing.

Rob Miller, Director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign said

"When we took Olga Salanueva, wife of René González, and their daughter Ivette to see Amnesty International in December 2005, it was clear that the case raised serious human rights concerns and also questioned the US legal system and its independence from the US administration. These men have been imprisoned for 7 years now despite the fact that the US courts have found the original trial to be unfair. They should be released immediately."

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