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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 02:26 GMT 03:26 UK
Cuban spies trial in US 'biased'
A poster of five Cubans jailed in the United States
The five men had become heroes in Cuba
A US appeals court has ordered a retrial for five Cubans convicted of spying in Miami four years ago.

The court accepted that the original trial was unfair because the large presence of Cuban exiles in the city had created a biased atmosphere.

The men were sentenced to at least 15 years after being accused of spying on US military installations and exiles.

However, Cuba calls the five men heroes and has fought an international campaign for their release.

Last month, a United Nations panel also questioned the impartiality of the verdict and called the sentences unduly harsh.

'Waves of passion'

Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez and Ramon Labanino were convicted in 2001 of serving in the so-called Wasp Network.

Elian Gonzales
Elian Gonzales' fate is said to have affected the trial

The men admitted to being spies, but said they were trying to prevent attacks on Cuban President Fidel Castro's government. They said they had not been targeting the United States.

Defence lawyers argued that prejudice against Mr Castro and the Cuban government and publicity surrounding the case made it impossible to hold a fair trial in Miami.

The trial began eight months after federal agents removed shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives.

The saga had flooded Miami with "waves of public passion" about the relationship between Cuba and the US, the appeals judges said.

The judges wrote that "the reversal of these convictions will be unpopular and even offensive to many citizens.

"However, the court is equally mindful that those same citizens cherish and support the freedoms they enjoy in this country that are unavailable to residents of Cuba."


In Havana, National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon hailed the court's ruling.

"This is a victory against those who promote terrorism... and jail young men who only acted to oppose terrorism in the United States," Mr Alarcon told the Agence France Presse news agency.

The men's families also praised the move.

"It's the first happy news we receive in seven years," said Adriana Perez, the wife of Gerardo Hernandez.

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