For quite some time, I have been involved in the call to free the “Hikers,” Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, from Iranian prison. I put “Hikers” in quotation marks, because this is the term they have become known by in the media—not because I believe there was anything more nefarious in their actions. I was first contacted by Josh’s brother, and subsequently have gotten to know Shane’s mother, Cindy Hickey better—I even once had her on my radio show, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
I was delighted on September 21st, the day Shane and Josh, convicted of spying and given a eight year sentence, were shown the highest mercy by the country of Iran and released. I had been invited to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in NYC that day, but financial circumstances prevented me from making a last minute trip from California. I wish I had been able to go to thank him personally, but while I was not in NYC, I was at my home in California basically doing a deathwatch for Troy Anthony Davis who was ultimately “lynched” by the State of Georgia for the 1989 murder of a cop that he most likely he did not commit. However, I have noticed a pattern, if a cop is killed, someone must die—it doesn’t really matter if that person is actually the one that committed the murder.
In another recent case, two Fullerton, California cops beat Kelly Thomas, a homeless and mentally ill man, (who was begging for his life and for his dad to help him) to death on the 5th of July and Kelly died five days later on the 10th—a crime that was videotaped by passersby with cell phone cameras AND a transit camera because the incident occurred at a bus station. The charges against these murderers for a heinous crime were essentially slaps on the wrist, á la Johannes Meserle, the assassin of unarmed, Oscar Grant. What is the common thread in the above cases? The state kills “Cop Killers,” and Killer Cops literally get away with their murders. Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli the murderers of Kelly Thomas, are on paid administrative leave—the taxpayers are funding their little paid vacation (with full benefits intact).
Besides the cruelty of the police state killings of Kelly Thomas and Oscar Grant and more recently a young black man, Kenneth Harding, who didn’t have evidence of paying his MUNI fare in San Francisco, the cops surely must know that their crimes will be videotaped in this age of almost universal citizen access to this technology—yet the police state still commits its crimes supremely confident in the knowledge that they will assuredly “get away” with them. That’s a bone-chilling thought!
To me, the guilt or innocence of a person is not what’s important in the issue of capital punishment—what’s important is that the use of this state murder is barbaric and needs to end. Troy Anthony Davis was not shown mercy by the State of Georgia, or by the Barbaric State of America. Kelly Thomas and Kenneth Harding were tragically not shown mercy by members of the police sate, but the cops will be shown plenty of that elusive virtue because it’s usually only reserved for the wealthy or members of this police state.
The day that the Hikers were released, the Prez of this country said, “I am thrilled. They never should have been in prison in the first place.” Well, I would like to tell you about FIVE men currently languishing in US Federal Prison who never should be there, “in the first place,” either. It’s the little known case of the Cuban Five, or the “Five Heroes” as they are referred to in Cuba.
Many acts of terrorism against Cuba have been planned from the right-wing Cuban exile community in Miami. These terrorists have killed thousands of Cubans and so the Cuban Five, as they would come to be known, were sent to the US to infiltrate this terrorist cell based in South Florida so as to be able to transmit messages back to Cuba to save lives in their homeland.
René González, Ramón Labaniño, Fernando González, Antonío Guerrero and Gerardo Hernández left their families to go to the US.
To make a long story short, in an act of good will, Cuban authorities decided to share information gathered by the Five with the FBI, and instead of rounding up the real terrorists, the Five were rounded up, put on trial in a kangaroo court in Miami where a fair trial was just not possible and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
The Five Heroes did nothing against the US and never gathered any intelligence against our government—yet they have been in prison since 1998.
I have met their mothers, wives and children all over the world and I have also been in solidarity with the movement to free the Five for several years.
I know that President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela used his good influence with President Ahmadinejad of Iran (in fact, as I am told, worked harder than the US did for the Hikers’ freedom) and I am wondering after so many have called for the release of the Five if there’s any humanitarian that the leaders of this nation would listen to? Of course, the “Communist Dictator,” Hugo Chávez, has no influence here in the US—he himself is on the same path of demonization that Castro, Ahmadinejad, Qaddafy, et al, are on.
The Cuban Five never should have been in prison, either and 13 years is a long time for innocent men to be incarcerated.
It’s time for Obama to show the same mercy as was just shown two of our innocent citizens by Iran and send the Five Heroes home to their families.
It’s not only the humane thing to do; it’s the just thing to do.