Late on Monday 3 March, just a few hours before he was due to fly from Havana to London, René González, was refused a visa to enter in the UK.
René González is the principal witnesses for the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five which takes place at the Law Society in London on 7 and 8 March.
In its letter of refusal, the UK Immigration and Visa Office states that it is due to point 320 (2b) of UK immigration law, which says entry can be denied to a person who has been sentenced to more than four years in prison. Although, dispensation can be granted in exceptional circumstances, the UK government states that it does not consider Mr González’s attendance at the International Commission to be reason enough to justify this or “outweighed by the public interest in maintaining a refusal.”
Rob Miller, director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, one of the organisers of the Commission said this morning:
“ We are deeply disappointed and surprised by the decision to refuse a visa to René González.
“The British government has the opportunity to show discretion on visa applications in circumstances like this but has chosen not to do so with regards to René González’s application. In the context of the already highly politicised case of the Miami Five, such a decision can only be interpreted as a political one.
“We have taken legal advice and will be appealing this decision including seeking an urgent Judicial Review if necessary.”
González returned home to Cuba in May 2013 after serving 13 years in prison and 18 months of supervised released in the United States. He was arrested with four other members of the Miami Five in 1998 after infiltrating Florida-based responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks against Cuba.
The fairness of their trial has been questioned by international human rights groups including Amnesty International. One of the aims of the Commission of Inquiry is to investigate this aspect of the case. Twenty international witnesses and commissioners including their US legal team, family members, victims of terrorism against Cuba, and experts on international law, US- Cuba relations and human rights are arriving in Britain this week to take part in the International Commission of Inquiry and associated events on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 March.
Former Unite general secretary and leading Miami five campaigner, Tony Woodley said: “The decision to refuse René González a visa to enter the UK is deeply unsettling. I can’t see the public interest in refusing René entry into the UK. On the contrary it is in the public interest to lay bare the circumstances surrounding the arrest and imprisonment of the Miami Five. For the sake of openness and transparency we hope the UK government thinks again and allows René González to attend the commission.”
“The Commission and events will still continue this weekend, and we are making every effort to get this decision overturned and enable Rene to come to Britain to participate. Thousands of people in the UK, including hundreds of MPs, have been campaigning for the freedom and justice for the Five for more than ten years and are waiting to welcome Rene to Britain,” said Mr Miller.