Cuba accuses U.S. of paying journalists to influence jury in 2001 trial against five agents accused of espionage

The Cuban government accused the U.S. of paying millions of dollars to Florida journalists to make a defamation campaign against five Cuban agents jailed for life in 2001 on espionage charges, according to the news agency EFE.

Attorney Martin Garbus accused the newspapers El Nuevo HeraldThe Miami HeraldDiario las Américas, as well Radio/TV Martí, and WAQI (Radio Mambí) of receiving U.S. government money to report news for persuading the jury in Miami that sentenced the alleged Cuban spies to jail, according to the news agency Europa Press.

The Cuban government accused the journalists of secretly being paid in an affidavit defending the leader of the five defendants, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, and requested the sentence to be nullified, since the jury was persuaded by public opinion, according to Radio Cubana. An investigation in 2006 by The Miami Herald said that about 10 journalists from Miami received money from the radio station Radio/TV Martí to participate on the radio's programs while the trial unfolded, reported the news agency AFP. Radio/TV Martí is a station funded by the U.S. government that was created by President Ronald Reagan to promote democracy in Cuba.

In 1998, five Cuban agents were detained and accused of conspiracy against the U.S. government, but the government of La Habana said that their mission was to infiltrate dissident groups in Florida to uncover future terrorism acts against the island, and not to damage U.S. security, according to the organization Amnesty International, which asked the U.S. government to revise the sentences against the Cuban agents.

According to Europa Press, the government of President Raúl Castro is looking to request a presidential pardon from President Obama if ‘habeas corpus’ doesn't work to nullify the sentences.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.