Skip to comments.Court Fight Will Hold Posada's Fate
Posted on 05/29/2005 8:07:24 AM PDT by nuconvert
Court fight will hold Posada's fate
Some Cuban exile militants living in the Miami area may be called to testify in deportation or asylum hearings for bombing suspect Luis Posada Carriles.
BY OSCAR CORRAL AND ALFONSO CHARDY/Miami Herald
May. 29, 2005
Some of the darkest moments in Miami and Cuban exile history, rife with bombings and political intrigue, may emerge in upcoming asylum and deportation hearings for Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles.
Posada -- who has been accused but never convicted of blowing up a Cuban jetliner and masterminding a series of hotel bombings in Havana -- now sits in a Texas detention center after federal agents detained him in Miami on May 17.
The 77-year-old had sneaked into the United States recently after years of hiding abroad.
Posada's lawyers plan to request asylum, claiming that he faces death or torture because Cuban agents are gunning for him.
A petition for asylum opens the door to possibly long hearings on whether Posada deserves asylum or removal from the country in light of allegations against him.
Attorneys for Posada and the government could then call witnesses, including other anti-Castro militants who have received pardons, residency, even U.S. citizenship after years of brazen attacks against Cuban interests -- a move that could backfire if government lawyers use the same witnesses to drill deep into Posada's past.
''We're going to do everything we can to defend our client,'' said Renee Soto, who represents Posada along with Eduardo Soto. ``If it's necessary to call witnesses in order to rebut what the government brings, then that's what we are going to do.''
A hearing is scheduled for June 13, when government lawyers are expected to ask for deportation and when Posada's attorneys plan to renew his asylum request.
The Posada hearings promise to be dramatic in their own right. He's a self-published author, dapper-dressed warrior, former CIA contractor and explosives expert.
His anti-Castro cohorts are just as colorful, and they include old-guard militants like Orlando Bosch, a pediatrician, bazooka gunner and painter.
Posada's lawyers could call them to explain that the militant's goal has always been to free Cuba from tyranny and that his deportation basically amounts to a death sentence.
If it came to that, it's not clear where Posada would be deported to. U.S. officials have already indicated they would not deport him to Venezuela, an ally of Cuba. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice denied a request from Venezuela, where Posada had lived for several years, to detain Posada on charges related to the 1976 Cuban jetliner bombing.
Venezuelan officials said they intend to renew that request later -- and Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel on Saturday blasted U.S. officials as ``hypocritical.''
''They condemn terrorism on the one hand, and on the other they protect terrorists,'' Rangel said in a veiled reference to Posada as he led a protest demanding Posada's extradition.
Likewise, in Guyana, which lost 11 of its citizens in the jetliner attack, officials have expressed concern about how U.S. officials handle Posada's case. Defense Secretary Roger Luncheon said Saturday that the case affects ``more than the interest of Guyana.''
''It has more to do with the way in which the international community stands collectively on the repudiation of international terrorism,'' he said.
`ALL MEANS AVAILABLE'
''A terrorist is a person who kills indiscriminately,'' said Pedro Remón, who was incarcerated with Posada in Panama in a plot to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro. ``That has never been what Cuban militants did.
``When a freedom fighter fights for this purpose, he must use all means available to him, without endangering the civil rights of others. If you plant a bomb and someone walks by, you could endanger them. That must stop.''
To be certain, the government has a low bar to seek denial of asylum. All it has to do is convince an immigration judge that Posada committed ''serious nonpolitical crimes'' or engaged in terrorism before arriving in the United States. But the government has indicated that it would not deport him to Venezuela or Cuba, countries where Posada is wanted.
Venezuelan courts twice acquitted Posada in the jetliner bombing, but he escaped from prison disguised as a priest while the government appealed the acquittal.
At least six former fighters like Posada live in South Florida. They may know of his alleged role in several anti-Castro attacks, including the 1976 Cubana de Aviación bombing that killed 73 people -- and assistant chief counsels for the Department of Homeland Security could put them under oath to boost their deportation case.
Some of the potential witnesses have their own dubious pasts, including links to the Washington car-bomb assassination of a Chilean diplomat and his American aide and the unsolved car bombing in Miami that maimed a popular exile journalist.
Among the exiles who may be called:
Remón, 60, who spent four years in a Panamanian jail with Posada after they were caught with explosives, allegedly intending to blow up Castro. A Panamanian court convicted them, but the country's president pardoned them.
''I will wait until I get subpoenaed or I am asked to testify before I talk about it,'' said Remón, jailed with Posada from 2000 to 2004. ``I spent four years in a jail cell with Luis, and of course, we talked about many things,''
He declined to elaborate.
Gustavo Castillo of Hialeah is the only person placed at a meeting where blowing up the jetliner was discussed, according to CIA and FBI documents.
''Some plans regarding the bombing of a Cubana Airlines airplane were discussed at the bar in the Anauco Hilton Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela, at which meeting Frank Castro, Gustavo Castillo, Luis Posada Carriles and [Ricardo ``Monkey''] Morales Navarrete were present,'' the November 1976 FBI document said. ``This meeting took place sometime before the bombing of the Cubana Airlines DC-8.''
Castillo told The Herald that the document is wrong.
''I have not been in any meetings with those people. I don't know Posada,'' said Castillo, once jailed in the United States and Mexico for trying to kidnap a Cuban consul in Merida, Mexico, in 1976. The attempt left the consul's bodyguard dead.
Castillo said he supports Posada because ``he served this country.''
A federal grand jury indicted Castillo and Gaspar Jiménez in connection with the 1976 car-bomb attack on Emilio Milian, an anti-Castro commentator who opposed the use of violence by exiles to overthrow Castro. Milian lost his legs in the bombing.
A new U.S. attorney eventually dropped the indictment.
''I had absolutely nothing to do with it,'' Castillo said.
Bosch recently told The Herald that Posada spent at least one night with him and other exiles in the town of Bonao in the Dominican Republic, where U.S. authorities believe plans to blow up an airliner were discussed.
Bosch was arrested and eventually acquitted in Venezuela of the attack, and he returned to the United States.
Before federal agents detained him, Posada told The Herald that he was never at Bonao. And if he attended any meetings at the Anauco Hilton, ``there was no talk of conspiracy.''
Others who may have knowledge of Posada's anti-Castro history are Guillermo Novo and Jiménez, who were imprisoned in Panama with Posada from 2000 to 2004.
U.S. investigators believe that Novo attended the Bonao meeting. Novo denies it: ``I've never been in Bonao. And from what I know, Posada was not in Bonao.''
Novo told The Herald that Posada deserves asylum because he has been a loyal anti-Castro fighter who worked for the United States to battle communism.
ON TRIAL TWICE
Novo was convicted in the 1976 bombing murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his aide. An appellate court overturned the conviction. He was acquitted in a second trial. Police once arrested Novo after a 1964 bazooka attack on the United Nations during a speech by Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara. The charges were later dropped.
Jiménez, like Castillo, served time for the attempted kidnapping and murder of Cuban diplomats in Mexico, and was also indicted -- although the charges were dropped -- in the Milian case.
Jiménez did not respond to a written request for an interview.
A former U.S. prosecutor who tried the Letelier case, Eugene Propper, wrote in a 1982 book that Posada and Novo were at Bonao and discussed specific targets. The book's source was Rafael Rivas Vasquez, a top commander in DISIP, Venezuela's secret police.
Remón -- who supports asylum for Posada -- summed up the case this way:
``We are not perfect. Errors have been committed. But you must separate terrorism from the inalienable right of people to fight for liberty.''
(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,
If you want to fight a revolution, then get your pals together arm yourselves and fight, Blowing up innocents is not fighting, its murder.
Posada was a former CIA contractor and explosives expert. What ever he did, the U.S. government must have had a hand in it too.
Panamas expresident should have had her U.S. visa pulled after she left office, but it didnt happen that way. I believe there was an agreement struck that if she pardoned Posada and the other three, the other three are Cuban-Americans, she could, in exchange, keep her U.S. visa. (She has property in the U.S.)
There are two others who remain in jail. They are both Panamanians.
Castro wont be letting her go and even if he did the liberals here would want to give her a medal.
I thought he was a catcher for the Oakland Athletics.