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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 21:55 GMT
Cuban spy sentenced to life
Cuban exiles
Hernandez blamed Miami's Cuban community's clout
A man found guilty of spying on the US for Cuba has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Florida court.

Gerardo Hernandez, 36, was sentenced for trying to infiltrate US military bases and conspiring to murder four Cuban-Americans whose private planes were shot down by Cuban jet fighters in 1996.

One would wonder what motivated the prosecution to stage this propaganda show

Gerardo Hernandez

Hernandez was one of five men convicted of spying for Cuba in June. They were 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.

Plane plot

Hernandez was the only one charged with murder conspiracy, which related to the deaths of four members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue.

Their planes were shot down in international airspace while patrolling the sea for Cuban refugees.

The prosecution said Hernandez knew about the plot to shoot down the planes.

Prosecution lawyers 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.

Hernandez denied the charge and also denied spying against the US.

He called his trial a "propaganda show" and said he was a victim of the power of Miami's Cuban exile community.

'Gathering information'

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

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 information 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.

Of the other four men convicted of spying, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero also face life in prison.

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

The BBC's Fergal Parkinson
"The other four men... are due to be sentenced later this week"
See also:

08 Jun 01 | Americas
Five Cubans guilty of spying on US
17 Oct 01 | Americas
Base closure blow for Cuba
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
30 Nov 01 | Americas
US sells food to Cuba
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