It was the Solidarity Movement that Brought the Five
out of Solitary Confinement
Cuban Five have been released from solitary
confinement in the different US prisons where they
are serving extremely long sentences for defending
their country against terrorism. They spent almost a
month in abysmal conditions deprived of family and
consular visits as well as writing and reading
material, and, in at least one case, his clothing.
Dwyer from Radio Havana Cuba's English language
service, spoke to US attorney Leonard Weinglass who
represents one of the Five soon after she learned of
Dwyer, Radio Havana Cuba]: Well, Leonard,
congratulations, this is really great news for
everybody [Leonard Weinglass]: There are many, many
people to be congratulated because it was the
response of the solidarity movement that brought the
Five out of solitary confinement.
You think that it was actually public pressure that
brought this about? [LW]: Yes, that's what I meant
when I referred to the response of the solidarity
movement behind it. It was the overwhelming response
of the public that enabled them to come out.
How did you learn about their change of prison
status? [LW]: I received official notice last Friday
that they would be out within a few days. I got that
from the US Attorney in Miami and then I heard that
René was the first out and then Gerardo and I know
that on Monday Antonio came out. I don't know when
Ramón and Fernando came out but I do know that they
are out now as well.
I understand that there are some restrictions that
will remain in place. Do you know yet which ones
Weinglass]: As of now I don't know precisely what
the restrictions will be. I have only received
formal notification that they are going to be out of
isolation and there will be some unnamed
restrictions that will still be in place. As of now,
I don't know which restrictions they are referring
to. But I have spoken to Antonio twice, without any
Antonio did tell me that the three letters that he
wrote to me while he was detained in isolation have
today been returned to him. They were never
delivered despite the fact that the US Attorney
promised me that mail rights for legal
correspondence were fully restored. They were not
because he never got my letters either.
From your telephone conversations with Antonio,
could you gauge his state of mind and attitude to
his release from isolation?
Antonio is a very modest man and also very brave. He
is not the kind of person who would complain. But he
did tell me that he was very happy today, when I
spoke to him one hour ago, that they gave him a box
with two hundred letters which had been sent to him
during the time he was in isolation.
Have you spoken to any of the other attorneys about
their clients, the other four men who were released
from solitary confinement?
you been able to have any further consultations
about the appeal about to [LW]: No, I haven't had
the opportunity. Phil Horowitz who represents René
called me to tell me when René was out but I
haven't been able to communicate with the other
attorneys. As you know, everyone is in the final
stages of writing the appeals briefs which are due
on April 7th .I have filed for an additional thirty
days and I haven't heard back from the courts but I
did receive a letter yesterday from Gerardo and that
letter was written to me while Gerardo was in
isolation. So his letters to me have been delivered
and Antonio's were not. We have lost thirty days.
Antonio went into the hole on March 3rd, Gerardo
went in on February 28th, and we have had a lost
month here. They were separated from their papers.
They were not able to do anything with respect to do
any work on the appeal and I went to see the two of
them while they were in isolation, neither could
really work on their case because they didn't have
their papers and of course they were in terrible
conditions under which it was impossible to do our
work. So we have lost 30 days. That's why I wrote to
the Eleventh Circuit asking them to give us the 30
days we have lost.
Was any reason given as to why they were put into
solitary and then released a month later? There was
a suggestion that there was a national security
issue but obviously that no longer applies, so it
appears this whole thing has been arbitrary.
No, nothing beyond what you've just said. They've
never explained why they put the in and then never
explained why they took them out. But they did tell
us in writing that they would be in for a year which
would be renewed year to year. So they came out
within 30 days without letting us know what
situation had changed that caused the Government to
release them after a month.
So, in reality they could be put back in again?
It's very difficult to know. The Government has
complete control over them subject to the reaction
of the public, which in this case, I believe, has
forced their release.
can't predict the next movement the Government may
make. However, this may not be the end of the story.
I am now examining the possibility of filing a
lawsuit against the Government for the mistreatment
of the Five and the lack of justification or reason
for putting them under such horrendous conditions.
Do you think that the restrictions put in force will
interfere with their mail?
I'm not sure there are any restrictions on their
mail that comes to them. The fact that Antonio
received the two hundred letters today indicates
that they are now allowing his mail to come through.
However, I don't know what they might impose this
time forward. No one can tell that until we see by
experience what they are going to permit, but people
should remain vigilant because this might not be the
end of the story.
Mr. Weinglass, you mentioned your clients'
conditions when they were in solitary confinement
were the worst you had encountered. Is there
anything you would like to add to that?
Well, Gerardo's conditions were one of the worst I
have ever encountered in the US penal system. I got
a letter from Gerardo yesterday in which he told me
his conditions had got even worse than when I had
seen him on March 16th.
toilet above his cell evidently broke and the dirty
water came down into his cell and was falling on him
and in his sink. For the last week he was in custody
- with all reading material taken away from him - he
spent his time trying to plug the leak in his
ceiling with the toilet paper that was available to
him, so that the dirty water didn't fall on him -
you'll recall he was in his underwear as they had
taken his clothes from him. That was what was
preoccupying him in his last week in custody. It was
quite awful. He complained to the medical services
because of the medical dangers and was ignored. They
knew he was living in these conditions and they did
nothing to help him. He was in a special punishment
cell for violent inmates within the solitary
was utterly inhumane treatment and I don't think it
should pass without some reaction from their