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Julie Webb-Pullman: Anyone for table-tennis?

Anyone for table-tennis? A double fault for the Cuban Five...

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Tomorrow Fernando Gonzalez and Ramon Labanino will grace the Miami court with their presence once again - for yet another re-sentencing by a judge more renowned for her grotesquely inconsistent rulings than for the administration of justice.

The case resembles a game of ping-pong more than a judicial process, bouncing back and forth between the original highly-politicised trial and appeals to higher U.S. authorities and international organs, then back again.

Serving her first fault against the Five, Judge Lenard refused repeated requests for a change of venue, and double-faulted with gross violations of both jury and accuseds' rights during the trial itself. She then aced them with manifestly excessive sentences

Appeals to the ref showed the Five had plenty of 'ping' in their arguments, and the score was set aside based on the weather conditions prevailing during the first game, being a 'perfect storm of prejudice' in which spectators interfered with play to such an extent that a fair game was impossible.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention added several of their own 'pings', determining in 2005 that the game did not qualify because keeping the Five off-court for 17 months, depriving them of access to the bats and balls, then holding the match in the opposition's club-rooms, was arbitrary and unfair.

The 'pong' was soon apparent when a full rematch was denied, and only three players were permitted to continue in a replay of the set, exuding the unmistakable stench of political interference, and injustice.

Starting the set again with only a third of the team, line-calls from both sides pinged in unison at 20 all, but Judge Lenard ponged again, overwhelming this small breath of fresh air with a fetid cloud of vengeance, to rule 21.8 against.

At the mercy of this Martin Hansson-style ref, the final two players in this set's rematch take the court tomorrow to try to 'ping' some justice back into the game.

It's anybody's guess whether justice will finally waft its fragrant way across the court, or whether it will be the flatulence of irregularity that wins the day.


Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported about - and on occasion from - Central America for Scoop since 2003. Send Feedback to


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