[JURIST] Lawyers for five Cubans jailed for spying in the United States urged a federal appeals court Monday to order a new trial in the case, arguing that the defendants were convicted on flimsy evidence. Lawyers representing the so-called Cuban Five [advocacy website] - Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Gerardo Hernandez - also argued that their clients' original trial was flawed because prosecutors made improper statements.
The men were convicted in 2001 of spying and sentenced to 15 years in prison. They admitted they were Cuban spies, but said they were watching the activities of exile groups opposed to Cuban leader Fidel Castro [BBC profile], rather than the US government. In 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the trial in Miami was biased due to community prejudice and extensive media coverage. The government appealed that decision and during a rehearing [JURIST reports] before the full appeals court, the defendants argued that "the pervasive community prejudice against the Cuban government and its agents and the publicity surrounding the trial that existed in Miami prevented them from obtaining a fair and impartial trial." The full federal appeals court upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the convictions. Cox News Service has more.