Red letter day

Apr 19, 2006 at 12:00 am

News Hits salutes our comrades in Detroit City Council for their commitment to international civil rights and upholding Detroit's title as America's most liberal city.

On April 1, Councilmember JoAnn Watson joined former Council President Maryann Mahaffey in presenting a resolution calling for the release of the Cuban Five, a group currently imprisoned by the U.S. government after being charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. Passed unanimously the previous week, the resolution was given to Leonard Weinglass, an attorney for one of the five, at a forum sponsored by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice.

The five are Cuban citizens sent to Florida by the Cuban government to report on the activities of anti-Castro groups. They've sat in prison since being arrested by the FBI in 1998. A three-judge appellate panel overturned their 2001 convictions last summer, saying the group did not receive a fair trial. But last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out that decision. As a result, the men remain locked up in various locations while the appeals process began all over again.

The problem, according to council members, is that the U.S. government is unfairly cracking down on a pro-Castro group while allowing violent, anti-Castro organizations an easier time. Of the 26 charges leveled against the five, none included the use of violence or weapons, property damage or the leaking of classified documents. Council deemed 24 of these charges "relatively minor and technical offenses," consisting mainly of the use of false names and the failure to register as foreign agents — nothing worthy of the multiple life terms some of the men received.

It isn't just the Detroit City Council that's making noise. The United Nations has also protested against the U.S. government's treatment of the five, saying it "violates international norms of lawful detention." Amnesty International has condemned the government's refusal to allow visas to family members wishing to visit the imprisoned men.

The council sent copies of the document to President George Bush, the U.S. attorney general, the secretary of state, several senators, public officials and the mass media. So far as News Hits can make out, the only local mention of it was in a Frank Beckmann column in the Detroit News. "Council casts its lot with accused spies, murders." (Read that headline again, careful, and you'll see a truly laughable mistake that portrays the council as a collection of homicidal maniacs. At least we assume it's a mistake.)

As for longtime radio guy Beckmann, we offer this advice: Settle down, Frank. What's the point of being named "America's most liberal city" by San Francisco's Bay Area Center for Voting Research if we can't support the commies on occasion?

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]