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'Cuban Five' member can stay in Cuba: US court

Posters calling for the release of the Cuban 5 hang at the Cuban Interests Section, September 17, 2012 in Washington, DC
Posters calling for the release of the Cuban Five hang during a news conference at the Cuban Interests Section September 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. A member of the "Cuban Five" group convicted of espionage in the United States will be allowed to remain p

A member of the "Cuban Five" group convicted of espionage in the United States will be allowed to remain permanently in Cuba in exchange for renouncing his US citizenship, a Florida court ruled on Friday.

Rene Gonzalez, 56, who was on probation in the United States after serving 13 years in prison for espionage, has been in Cuba since traveling there to attend the April 22 burial of his father.

A US federal court in Miami ruled that he will be permitted to remain there on the condition that he give up his US citizenship and never come back to the United States.

The court ruling said Gonzalez would be issued a "certificate of loss of nationality" by the State Department and "shall serve the remainder of his supervised-release term in Cuba... and he shall not return to the United States."

Gonzalez was arrested in 1998 along with the other members of the Cuban Five -- Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez.

The five men were found guilty in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military installations in South Florida and were given long prison terms, ranging from 15 years to life. Gonzalez was released from prison in October 2011.

Cuba has acknowledged that the five were intelligence agents but says they simply aimed to gather information on "terrorist" plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida -- not to spy on the US government.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry said Friday Gonzalez will submit the renunciation of his American citizenship to officials at the US Interests Section in Havana in the near future, but it did not specify when.

There had been talk of possibly swapping Gonzalez and the other Cuban agents for US contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba, but Washington has repeatedly rejected a trade.

Gross, 64, was arrested in December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community under a State Department contract.

A Cuban court found Gross guilty of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of the communist-ruled island and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Cuba in the past indicated a willingness to negotiate Gross's release in exchange for the return of the five Cuban spies, but Washington so far has ruled this out.

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