Castro's government sent Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez to South Florida to gather information about anti-communist exile groups and send it back to the island using encrypted software, high-frequency radio transmissions and coded electronic phone messages.
The five were convicted of being unregistered foreign agents, and three were found guilty of espionage conspiracy for failed efforts to obtain military secrets. Hernandez was also convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots whose small, private planes were shot down in February 1996 by a Cuban MiG in international waters off Cuba's northern coast.
They were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 years to life in December 2001, but the case has ping-ponged through the court system the last six years due to a round of appeals.
In August 2005, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta tossed the verdicts, saying the five didn't receive a fair trial because of anti-Castro bias in Miami. But the convictions were reinstated exactly a year later by the full 11th Circuit.
Monday's arguments before another three-judge panel of the court offered the five their latest shot at freedom.
"An enterprising reporter could have obtained the same info that Antonio Guerrero obtained on that base," Klugh said. "He's doing a life sentence for something that could have been published in the Miami Herald."