Panama expunges Posada pardon

Panama’s Supreme Court has overturned a 2004 pardon of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles and three other right-wing Cubans—Pedro Crispin Remon Hernandez, Gaspar JimĂ©nez Escobedo, and Guillermo Novo Sampoll—charged with plotting to kill Fidel Castro at the 2000 Ibero-American summit. The militants were accused of attempting to bomb a University of Panama auditorium where the Cuban leader was due to speak. Panamanian courts ruled there was too little evidence to try them for attempted murder but convicted them on charges of conspiracy, possessing explosives and endangering public safety. US-friendly President Mireya Moscoso issued the pardons in 2004—sparking a diplomatic spat with Cuba and Venezuela.

Following a legal challenge by former Prosecutor General JosĂ© Antonio Sossa, the Supreme Court ruled in a late night session July 1 the pardons had been unconstitutional. The court also reversed pardons of 179 other people, including several dozen journalists. The current Panamanian government of President Martin Torrijos had previously protested about the pardon. Panama’s Prosecutor General Ana Matilde Gomez called the Supreme Court’s decision a “constitutional vindication.”

Posada, wanted by Cuba and Venezuela on terrorism charges, is currently in the United States. He was released from US custody in April 2007, having been detained in May 2005 after entering the country illegally. Panama’s Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro said the his government would request their extradition if the judiciary requests it. (ACN, Cuba, July 6; Reuters, Reuters, July 2; ACN, July 1)

See our last posts on Cuba, Panama and Posada Carriles.