I am currently in East Didsbury. Didsbury is a little village which has been subsumed into greater Manchester and now falls just within the outer limits of the city. Long known as a home to academics from the nearby University of Manchester, in recent years Didsbury, or at least West Didsbury which is the other part of town, is also gradually becoming something of a fashionable home to media figures of various degrees of fame. The formerly sleepy village center has long enjoyed a first-class cheese shop, the Cheese Hamlet, but in recent years has also accumulated an increasing number of nice restaurants with a variety of Asian and Mediterranean cuisines.
On Saturday we walked a few blocks to a local park which was the setting for the annual village fair. In addition to rides for the kids, there were dozens of booths either raising funds for good causes (mostly local schools) or publicizing good causes (everything from local history to Amnesty International and helping Darfur). What particularly struck me, however, was the large sign on the booth that had the most prominent location by the entrance, “Free the Miami Five”.
The booth, it seems, belonged to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a group that sports three web sites, and which has gotten very worked up about the trial of five Cuban agents convicted in 2001 of conspiracy and being foreign agents. From what I recall of the trial — being here on a slow and expensive dial-up link I'm not going to look up the details (but invite commentators to do so) — there were valid questions about whether a Miami jury could give alleged Cuban agents a fair trial, or whether the trial should be moved elsewhere. And, if I recall, not all the judges who looked at the issue were of the same view. And although, from what I recall, the basic mechanics of the trial were fair, a reasonable person could question the decision as to the jury. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction — not knowing the facts of how the actual jury was selected, which I'm sure might change my mind — is that a change of venue to somewhere less reflexively anti-Castro might have been a pretty good idea to ensure the fairness of the jury pool.
What's odd, though, is to pick on this case, of all the justice-related issues in the USA (much less the world), as the one to make an issue of in a park in East Didsbury. If I were going to try to get the good people of Didsbury worked up about a US justice issue, or a Cuba-related justice issue, I might start with Guantanamo. Somewhere not too far down the list we might have the treatment of political dissidents in Cuba itself. Or maybe the move in Florida to cut the pay of court-appointed defenders in order to save a buck and make sure that they can't afford to mount much of a defense. The “Miami 5,” for all that there may be a question about the underlying fairness of the jury selection for their trial, would not be near the head of my list.
I have no idea to what extent the “Cuba Solidarity Campaign” represents something genuine among the British soft left, or to what extent it is funded by the Cuban government or whatever remains of the Communist International. Despite its location, their booth didn't seem to be nearly as popular as the ones offering used books, or the various tombolas, or the one selling very good Indian snacks. Still, “Free the Miami 5” was a funny first thing to see at at the Didsbury fair.