Latin America & Caribbean

Jailed Cuban spy Fernando Gonzalez freed from US prison

The Federal Correctional Institution in Safford, Arizona Image copyright AP
Image caption Fernando Gonzalez was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Safford, Arizona

US authorities have released jailed Cuban agent Fernando Gonzalez from prison after he completed his sentence.

He is the second of a group of spies who became known as the Cuban Five to be freed. They were convicted in 2001 on charges including conspiracy.

Gonzalez is expected to be deported within days to Cuba, where he and his fellow spies are considered heroes.

Prosecutors said the five had sought to infiltrate US military bases and spied on Cuban exiles in Florida.

International campaign

Since their conviction, the men have been at the centre of a vociferous campaign by the Cuban government to free them.

Image copyright AFP

Fernando Gonzalez, 54, was arrested in 1998 along with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez.

The five were found guilty in 2001 of conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the US.

Cuba has always maintained they posed no threat to the United States as they were only monitoring anti-communist exiles in Florida with the aim of preventing attacks by exiles on the communist-run island.

Hero's welcome

Fernando Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years but his jail term was later reduced. At the time of his release in the early hours of Wednesday he had served more than 15 years in prison.

He is the second of the group to be freed after the release in 2011 of Renee Gonzalez.

Renee Gonzalez returned to Cuba to a hero's welcome and has been campaigning for the release of his fellow detainees.

Antonio Guerrero is set to be released in September 2017, while Labanino's release is due in October 2024.

Hernandez is serving a double life sentence as he 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.

The pilots were on a mission searching for Cubans trying to flee the island by crossing the Florida Straits in home-made rafts. Cuba accused the planes of violating Cuban airspace.

The case of the Cuban Five has long been a source of tension between the US and Cuba.

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