Court hears appeal in Cuban spy case

A convicted Cuban spy, who is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo., is hoping an appeal of his case will set him free.

A U.S. appeals court in Miami recently heard oral arguments from attorneys representing Antonio Guerrero, 45, and four others who were also convicted three years ago on espionage-related charges and are serving sentences in prisons scattered across the country.

The defense team, which includes renowned attorney Leonard Weinglass, argued on March 10 to overturn portions of the five's verdicts and also asked for a new trial.

Federal agents arrested Guerrero, who is a Miami native, and the other four defendants in 1998 in Florida. The five admitted belonging to a Cuban intelligence operation known as the "Wasp network" but claimed they were gathering information on Florida-based groups carrying out terrorist attacks against Cuba. A jury, however, convicted the five of sweeping criminal charges, ranging from failing to register as a foreign agent to conspiring to commit murder. A judge gave the five sentences ranging from 15 years to life. (For an extensive account of the case, see "Stinging Back," April 10, 2003, available at www.csindy.com.)

Guerrero, who was convicted of conspiring to commit espionage, began serving his sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, 40 miles south of Colorado Springs, in 2001.

Though largely unknown in the United States, the "Cuban Five" are celebrated as national heroes in Cuba and have inspired an international campaign to free them. Supporters say the five were fighting terrorism and argue that they received an unfair trial.

The appeals court is expected to rule sometime in the next several months.

-- Terje Langeland


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