Cuba, Venezuela pressure U.S. to try Posada as a terrorist
by Jay Weaver
Apr. 11, 2007
Reprinted from McClatchy Newspapers
MIAMI - As Cuba and Venezuela went on a public campaign Wednesday to have Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles tried as a terrorist, the federal judge in the case handed the former CIA operative another victory that could set him free on bond within days.
Justice Department prosecutors now find themselves at a crossroads because U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso rejected all of their efforts to reconsider her decision last Friday to release Posada until his May 11 trial.
Posada's attorneys have posted most of his $350,000 bond as he awaits trial on immigration-fraud charges. When his family members sign a personal surety bond for the $100,000 balance, authorities would have two days to make their next move to stop his release.
"We're weighing our options on whether to appeal," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said Wednesday.
Cardone ruled that despite accusations of a violent history, the current charges against a "frail" Posada, 79, deal solely with how he allegedly lied about sneaking into the country two years ago.
Posada's attorney, Arturo Hernandez, said he is ready to fight the government, whether it appeals the judge's decision or tries to enforce a prior immigration detention order upon his release on bond. "We have every confidence that within a reasonably short period of time, Mr. Posada will be released pursuant to the court's order," he said.
News of Posada's possible release generated condemnation from Cuban leader Fidel Castro and advocacy groups that call Posada a "terrorist."
"The instructions for the verdict issued by Judge Kathleen Cardone . . . granting Luis Posada Carriles freedom on bail, could only have come from the White House," Castro wrote in a letter in the Cuban government's daily newspaper, Granma.
"It was President Bush himself who ignored at all times the criminal and terrorist nature of the defendant who was protected with a simple accusation of immigration violation leveled at him. The reply is brutal.
"The government of the United States and its most representative institutions had already decided to release the monster."
A Cuba advocacy group said Wednesday that Posada should not be released under any circumstances. Instead, the group - the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, named after a group of Cuban men convicted of spying for Fidel Castro - said Posada should be charged with terrorism or extradited to Venezuela.
In 1985, Posada escaped from prison in Venezuela after his arrest in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
"We demand that the U.S. government cease protecting the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles," Odalys Perez Rodriguez, daughter of the Cuban airliner's captain, said in a telephone press conference.
In addition, Posada has been accused of - but not charged with - masterminding tourist-site bombings in Havana that killed an Italian in 1997. A federal grand jury is investigating that case.
"Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist, and the U.S. government has refused to define him as so," said Livio di Celmo of Montreal, whose brother, Fabio di Celmo, was killed in one bombing attack in Havana a decade ago. "This release on bond is an insult to my brother and the other victims of terrorism."
The latest legal maneuvering by the Justice Department's counterterrorism lawyers reveals their tough stand to keep the controversial exile figure behind bars - although Free the Cuban Five advocates say it's "all show."