"Five Heroes" From Cuba Await Their Fate

The memories are 11 years old, but still make Jose Basulto red with anger.

The Cuban exile was flying a private plane toward Cuba in February 1996 when he saw a flash and smoke, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

Cuban fighter pilots shot down two other private planes flying alongside Basulto, killing four of his friends.

They had been on a mission with Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban exile group, which had been flying missions into Cuban airspace to drop anti-Castro leaflets over Havana. Basulto didn't know it at the time, but his group had been infiltrated by Cuban spies.

"They are all murderers!" Jose says

In 1998, the U.S. government charged and convicted the spies - for infiltrating the Cuban exile groups, and attempting to steal U.S. military secrets.

The spies are appealing their conviction on the basis it was impossible to get a fair trial in Miami, where hating Fidel Castro is practically a pastime - and sometimes has escalated into real violence against Cuba. The Cuban government says these men were only protecting their country against exiles who posed a threat.

Militant Cuban exile groups were openly training in south Florida in the 1990's. Cuban exiles had been linked to a string of hotel bombings in Cuba.

In Cuba, the spies are known as the "Five Heroes," wrongfully imprisoned. Meanwhile, the man Havana considers responsible for the worst of terrorism in Cuba, Luis Posada Carriles, is a free man living legally in Miami. Posada is accused of bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 passengers. To Cubans, he's a symbol of U.S. hypocrisy in the war on terror.

"This is a festering injustice," says Leonard Weinglass, who represents one of the five, Antonio Guerrero, in the appeal to have the convictions overturned.

"I think we absolutely can win this trial in any venue in the United States outside of Miami," Weinglass says.

"We didn't attack anybody. We didn't use violence. We didn't use war," says Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly. "We just used what is referred now in America as 'human intelligence.'"

The exile community calls the Cuban five killers. The Cuban government says the U.S. would not hesitate to shoot down any plane that invaded america's airspace.



Click here to read Portia Siegelbaum's interview with Cuban parliament president Ricardo Alarcon about the case.
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