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US judge cuts jails terms for two members of Cuban Five

Fernando Gonzalez (L) and Ramon Labanino (file image)
An appeals court ruled that the men's original sentences were too harsh

A US judge has reduced the jail terms of two Cuban men convicted of spying.

Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez were part of the Cuban Five group, jailed in the US in 2001 for spying for the then government of Fidel Castro.

Labanino's life sentence has been reduced to 30 years and Gonzalez's by one year to 18 years.

The resentencing follows an appeals court ruling that the terms originally imposed were too harsh. A third man had his jail term reduced in October.

Antonia Guerrero had his life sentence reduced to 22 years.

Gonzalez had requested a greater drop in his sentence, said the Associated Press news agency.

But US District Judge Joan Lenard said it was "important that foreign governments know that such activities are not tolerated in this country".

'Unjust'

The case has long been a cause of friction with Cuba, where the men, who have been in US custody since 1998 - are considered national heroes.

Supporter of the Cuban Five (file image)
The men are considered national heroes in Cuba

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

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

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.

Following Tuesday's hearing, the president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said the new sentences were "not without importance".

But he said the jailing the men was still "unjust" and called on the US to release them.



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