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Federal appeals court overturns convictions of five Cuban agents

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] in Atlanta overturned the convictions and sentences of five accused Cuban spies [advocacy website] Tuesday, ruling [PDF opinion] that their trial in Miami was biased due to community prejudice and extensive media coverage. Ringleader Gerardo Hernandez's murder conspiracy conviction was also overturned. Hernandez was convicted for his role in the deaths of four Cuban exiles whose plane was shot down by Cuban MiGs in international airspace in 1996. The judges blamed prosecutors for making inflammatory remarks, which included saying jurors would be abandoning their community if they acquitted the spies sent to "destroy the United States." The five were convicted in June 2001 of serving as unregistered agents of a foreign government, and Hernandez and two others were also convicted of espionage conspiracy. In July the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention similarly condemned the 2001 conviction [JURIST report]. While all five admit being Cuban agents they said that they were spying on "terrorist" exile groups opposed to Castro, not on the United States. A new trial has been ordered. AP has more.

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