Page last updated at 21:50 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 22:50 UK

US judge cuts Cuban spy sentence

Artist's impression of Antonio Guerrero in court in Miami, 13 Oct 2009
Guerrero's life term was thrown out by an appeals court last year

A judge has reduced the jail sentence of a Cuban man convicted of spying in the US from life to nearly 22 years.

Antonio Guerrero is one of a group known as the Cuban Five who were jailed in the US in 2001 for spying for the then government of Fidel Castro.

The resentencing by a federal judge in Miami followed an appeals court ruling that his life term was too harsh.

The case has long been a cause of friction with Cuba, where the men are considered national heroes.

The five - Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez - were found guilty in 2001 of infiltrating US military bases and Cuban exile groups, and giving the information to Cuba.

Hernandez was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shooting-down in 1996 of two planes flown by a Cuban exile group, Brothers to the Rescue.

A poster of five Cubans jailed in the United States
The five men are regarded as national heroes in Cuba

The men, who received terms ranging from 15 years to life, have made several appeals against their convictions and sentences.

Last year, an appeals court upheld their convictions but ordered three of the group - Guerrero among them - to be resentenced.

Guerrero's lawyers had reached a deal with prosecutors last week on a 20-year sentence.

But in court on Tuesday, District Judge Joan Lenard handed down a slightly longer term of 21 years and 10 months, saying Guerrero had committed "very serious offences" and had made no statement of contrition.

Anti-Castro sentiment

In June, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal against the group's convictions.

The five argue that they did not get a fair hearing at the original trial in Miami because of anti-Castro sentiment in the city.

US prosecutors have insisted the men were found guilty on hard evidence, while Cuban exile groups say they were justly punished.

The Cuban government says the men were not in Miami to spy on the US but to prevent anti-Castro exile groups from launching what it calls terrorist attacks on Cuba.

They have been in US custody since 1998.

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