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The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington
"The defence had argued Mr Hernandez was prosecuted as a scapegoat"
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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 22:32 GMT 23:32 UK
Five Cubans guilty of spying on US
Imperatori and Castro
A Cuban diplomat (left) was deported on spying charges from the United States in March
A court in Miami has found five Cubans guilty on charges related to spying for Cuba on the United States.

One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, faces life in prison for his part in the deaths of four Americans when their plane was shot down in 1996.

The defendants, who were arrested in 1998 in Florida, are alleged to have belonged to the biggest ever Cuban spy ring in the United States.

All five were found guilty of operating as foreign agents without informing the US authorities.

Three of the men were also found guilty of trying to infiltrate US military bases.

'Gathering information'

The defendants - said to comprise three Cuban intelligence officers and two US citizens - acknowledged before the trial began that they were acting on orders from the Cuban Government.

Cuban exiles demonstrating over Elian Gonzales in Miami
Suspects said they infiltrated Cuban exile community
But they said they were gathering information about Cuban exiles suspected of carrying out bombing attacks in Cuba.

They even said that they had transmitted the infomation to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Lawyers for the prosecution said the men had used coded computer disks, high-frequency radio transmissions and electronic phone messages in a bid to infiltrate the US Southern Command Headquarters in Miami as well as exile groups.

'Don't fly' advice

Gerardo Hernandez was found guilty of contributing to the death of four members of the anti-Castro Brothers to the Rescue group whose plane was shot down over international airspace five years ago.

Lawyers for the prosecution said Hernandez knew a plane would be attacked because he had advised two men who had infiltrated the group not to fly during a four-day period.

Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero also face life in prison on spying charges.

Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez face up to 10 years in prison for not registering as foreign agents.

Five others arrested at the same time have already pleaded guilty in return for reduced sentences.

Last June, a Cuban diplomat was deported from the United States on spying charges, causing outrage in Cuba.

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See also:

03 Mar 00 | Americas
Spy row Cuban back home
28 Feb 00 | Americas
Cuban fury at diplomat expulsion
20 Feb 00 | Americas
Cuba defies US expulsion order
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