(AFP) Havana — One of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium, Cuban media said Wednesday.
Rene Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five,” an organization that fights “for freedom and justice for the Cuban Five.”
The men were convicted in a 2001 US spy case that made them heroes in Havana. Three of the men are still in prison in the United States.
Cuba has acknowledged that they were its agents but says they were spying on exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba.
The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales (sic), 55, received notice that he had been denied a visa a few hours before he was to depart from Havana for the March 7-8 event.
It added that British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison and that the British government “doesn’t consider Gonzalez‘s attendance at the international commission sufficient to justify his visa.”
“Gonzalez is the principal witness for the event,” Juventud Rebelde said.
The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and tried as part of a ring linked to the shoot-down of two private aircraft belonging to an exile group called Brothers to the Rescue. Four people were killed in the incident.
Gonzalez, who was to serve three years of parole in the United States after being released in October 2011, returned to Cuba in April 2013 to visit his family.
From there, he renounced his US citizenship, effectively ending his sentence in a move accepted by Washington.
A second member of the Five, Fernando Gonzalez, was released last Thursday from a maximum-security prison in the US state of Arizona and then deported to Cuba, after spending more than 15 years behind bars.
The other three agents are serving life sentences in the United States.