Among many other things, the Miami Herald’s extensive obituary of Fidel Castro describes the March 1959 trial of 44 Cuban pilots, bombardiers, and mechanics from Cuba’s pre-revolutionary air force (referred to as “el juicio de los aviadores” in Cuban legal history). In summary, after a revolutionary tribunal acquitted the accused airmen of crimes against the Revolution, an enraged Fidel instantly created a right of appeal for prosecutors. When he was told that Cuban law did not permit prosecutors to appeal acquittals, Fidel replied: “Revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts but on moral conviction.” A second tribunal then condemned the airmen to prison for 30 years. In the words of the Herald: “the airmen were lucky. Though Cuban law did not allow capital punishment, the revolutionary tribunals were sending a steady stream of men to the firing squad, often after trials televised from sports stadiums where handpicked mobs of Castro supporters howled in unison, paredón! — to the wall!”
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