In a surprise decision, US District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, TX, threw out all charges against right-wing Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles May 8, allowing him to go free days before he was set to be tried for immigration fraud. He is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela, where is accused in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Cardone dismissed the immigration charges on grounds that the US case was based on statements it got from Posada Carriles under false pretenses. He thought he was in an immigration interview that was actually a criminal interrogation, his lawyers asserted, and the judge agreed. “The government’s tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice,” Cardone wrote. “This court will not set aside such rights nor overlook government misconduct because defendant is a political hot potato.”
Her decision provoked an angry response from Cuba. “If the well-known terrorist Posada Carriles is free without charges it is the full responsibility of the White House,” Dagoberto Rodriguez, Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, said in a statement. The Bush administration, he said, “has done all it can to protect the bin Laden of this hemisphere, for fear that he can talk about the connection between the US government and his terrorist activities.”
“Trying him for minor immigration infractions was a travesty of justice and was designed to fool people into believing the government was serious about prosecuting this man,” said Jose Pertierra, a Washington-based lawyer representing the Venezuelan government in the extradition case.
Sought for the plane bombing by Venezuela, Posada Carriles is accused in Cuba of plotting a series of 1997 hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist. He was jailed in Panama for plotting to kill Castro during an Ibero-American summit in 2000, but was pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso in 2004.
His lawyers said he would return to Miami, where he has lived with his wife since he was released from jail April 19 on bail totaling $350,000. “He is elated,” said attorney Arturo Hernandez in Miami. “He is very gratified that the system has worked.” (Reuters, May 8)
Cuba’s Periodico 26 reports that the National Security Archives at George Washington University has released documents that “unequivocally prove” Posada Carriles’ culpability in the airplane bombing. Among the documents available on the Archives website are statements from Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo, who placed the explosives on the plane. Lugo and Ricardo incriminate each other for having blown up the aircraft with C-4 explosives and identify Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch as the leaders of the plot.
The organizational chart of the Coordinator of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU), the group that claimed responsibility for the attack, is also available on the site. Ricardo’s statement confirms the ties between CORU and the CIA. A diagram of the plastic bomb used in the attack can also be seen on the site.
The Archives also offer an intelligence report found among the personal papers of Luis Posada Carriles showing not only that he organized the plane bombing, but also other attacks against Cuban installations in Panama, Trinidad and Colombia in the months preceding the attack on Flight CU-455. Peter Kornbluh, in charge of the documents related to Cuba at the Archives, said enough documentation exists to indict Posada. (Periodico26, May 8)
Fidel Castro linked the freeing of Posada Carriles to last week’s attempted hijacking in Havana, saying the two Cuban soldiers who killed an army officer in their failed attempt to escape from the island were encouraged by the prospect of impunity in the US. In an editorial e-mailed to journalists, Castro described the attempted hijacking as “a consequence of freeing the monster of terror.” (AP, May 8)
See our last posts on Cuba and Posada Carriles.