The life of a Cuban intelligence officer jailed in the U.S. will be in danger from members of the Cuban exile community if he is forced to serve parole there, his wife said Thursday on the eve of his release.
Rene Gonzalez, a dual U.S.-Cuban citizen, petitioned a judge to let him return to his family in Cuba after he gets out of a federal penitentiary in Marianna, Florida, on Friday. But last month, a judge declined to alter the original sentencing requirement that Gonzalez serve three years of parole in the United States.
"His life will be in danger. ... They're alerting people's attention to the fact that there's a person who's an enemy of that society," Gonzalez's wife, Olga Salanueva, told The Associated Press in Havana.
"If they say Rene is a danger to that society _ well, he's no danger to ours," she added. "So the logical thing is to send him home."
Gonzalez, 55, will be the first to be released of the Cuban Five, agents sentenced to long prison terms in the United States on espionage charges.
The men were convicted in 2001 of trying to infiltrate U.S. military installations in South Florida, such as the Miami-based Southern Command headquarters. They also monitored Cuban exiles and tried to place operatives inside the campaigns of anti-Castro politicians.
Gonzalez has spent 13 years in custody. The other four are serving longer sentences, including up to life.
Cuban authorities consider the men national heroes. The island's government acknowledges they were monitoring anti-Castro militants but says at no time did they threaten U.S. sovereignty or national security. It also says the men did not receive a fair trial in South Florida, home to a large population of Cuban exiles virulently opposed to Fidel and Raul Castro.
"We are waiting for Rene Gonzalez to be released from prison tomorrow. We hope it happens normally, that there are no provocations, that there are no incidents," said Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon, who has led the island's effort to lobby for the men's freedom. "It is the responsibility of American authorities that his release be peaceful and orderly."
Salanueva, who was also implicated in the spy ring, has been unable to get a U.S. visa to see her husband during the years he has spent behind bars.
In documents filed earlier this year in Miami federal court, U.S. prosecutors said she attended meetings with other spies in Miami but was deported rather than arrested along with her husband and the others.
"Her role in the ring was somewhat passive," Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller said in court papers, without any elaboration.
Although Salanueva is barred from re-entering the U.S., Miller said in the papers that government officials have taken unspecified steps "so that husband and wife have been able to visit." Again, she provided no other details.
Salanueva, 51, said she has long dreamed of Gonzalez's return and she and their two daughters were sorely disappointed by the ruling keeping him in the United States.
"We knew that his sentence included the three years of supervised release," Salanueva said. "But we didn't think it would be put into effect because of how illogical it is."
AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt Andersen in Miami contributed to this report.