Federal Judge dismisses indictment against Cuban militant Posada Carriles
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from KVIA, ABC 7 El Paso
EL PASO, Tx. - Federal Judge Kathleen Cardone today dismissed a seven count indictment against Luis Posada Carriles, the former Cuban militant who is battling extradition for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner in Venezuela.
Judge Cardone granted Posada's motion to supress tapes and transcripts entered into evidence against him in a case alleging he made false statements to enter the United States.
In a 38-page ruling filed today, Cardone held that a government transcript of a conversation Posada Carriles had with INS officials was inaccurate and unreliable.
The judge also found that the government interpreter at that meeting incorrectly interpreted the conversation on numerous occasions, and that Posada's unwillingness to answer questions at the interview was actually confusion over the meaning of the questions.
The interpreter failed to interpret much of the English being read to Posada, according to the ruling, and inaccurately conveyed many of his responses.
In several cases, the English interpretation of statements Posada made meant the exact opposite of what he had said in Spanish.
Judge's ruling (38-page PDF)
Read the statement from Cuba here
Judge drops charges against Posada
by Jay Weaver and Alfonso Chardy
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from The Miami Herald
A federal judge issued a stunning decision Tuesday when she dismissed the immigration fraud charges against Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile militant who was facing trial starting Friday in El Paso, Texas.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone issued a lengthy written order scrapping the indictment that accused Posada, 79, of lying to immigration officials about how he sneaked into the country in March 2005.
U.S. officials were caught off guard by Cardone's ruling, saying the Bush administration was just now beginning to weigh its options.
"We are reviewing the decision," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington when asked if the government planned to appeal.
Immigration authorities would not say whether they plan to take Posada into custody again.
"We have been notified of the indictment being dismissed, and we'll take appropriate action," said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Posada was in El Paso with his lawyer, Arturo Hernandez, celebrating the surprise move by the Bush-appointed judge.
Last month she had granted Posada a $350,000 bond that allowed him to stay with his wife, Nieves, at her West Kendall apartment under 24-hour house arrest. He's scheduled to return to Miami Wednesday, Hernandez's office said.
© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
Judge frees Posada, rips feds' tactics
by Jay Weaver and Alfonso Chardy
May 9, 2007
Reprinted from The Miami Herald
Luis Posada Carriles plans to return to Miami a free man after an El Paso federal judge dismissed immigration fraud charges against the Cuban exile militant Tuesday. The reason: The government translator botched the English-Spanish interpretation of his citizenship interview.
In her 38-page written order scrapping the indictment, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone accused the United States government of engaging in "fraud, deceit and trickery" to indict Posada. She called the government's citizenship interview a "pretext for a criminal investigation" so it could charge Posada.
The citizenship interview was a central piece of the government's case because prosecutors had hoped to show that Posada lied under oath about how he sneaked into the United States. The dismissal is also embarrassing for the Bush administration, which has been investigating Posada since spring 2005, when he suddenly appeared in Miami.
"We're very gratified that the American justice system works," said Posada's attorney, Arturo Hernandez, who celebrated with his client in El Paso. "It's an important victory for the Cuban-American community . . . We're very grateful that the aspersions cast by [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez and [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro did not influence the court system. It's a special moment."
A Justice Department spokesman declined to say whether the government would appeal.
A federal grand jury in El Paso indicted Posada on charges of lying at his naturalization interview and on his citizenship application. The former CIA operative was to be tried starting Friday.
Posada -- who plans to return to Miami in the coming days -- always maintained that he crossed the Mexican border into the United States assisted by a migrant smuggler and then boarded a bus bound for Miami. The government planned to show at trial that Posada, 79, was smuggled from Mexico to Miami aboard a shrimping vessel manned by several Cuban exiles.
If the government appeals, it would challenge the judge's decision to toss out the indictment based on her analysis that the interpreter failed to accurately translate questions posed to Posada at his citizenship interview and his responses.
The judge said the interpreter, Luis Granados, used wrong words, omitted others or added words of his own to some questions and answers.
"This is not an acceptable practice in interpretation, and it caused severe confusion during the interview," Cardone wrote.
For example, a government lawyer -- who was with Granados -- tried to ask Posada if he had been to Mexico after he completed his jail time in Panama, where he was imprisoned in connection with a plot to kill Fidel Castro. Granados, instead, asked Posada whether he had been to Mexico before his jail time in Panama.
The judge noted that the blunder could "cause numerous problems" because the discrepancy undercut the United States' own timeline of how and when Posada entered the country -- which is the crux of the indictment.
Cardone questioned why immigration authorities interrogated Posada at his citizenship interview not only about his entry into the United States but also about his alleged role in anti-Castro militant activities, such as the bombings of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people and at tourist sites in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian.
She indicated the government questioned Posada on these activities to deepen its criminal investigation of Posada as a terrorism suspect, not to establish that he violated immigration law.
"The realm of this case is not, as some have suggested, terrorism," she wrote. "It is immigration fraud."
Two years ago, a similar issue came up concerning Posada's words: In immigration court, Posada testified that he misspoke when he told a New York Times reporter that he had been responsible for the deadly 1997 bombing at the Copacabana Hotel in Cuba. He said his English is so bad that he was unable to express himself accurately to the reporter.
The dismissal comes days after South Florida Cuban-American members of Congress criticized the FBI for a separate probe where agents went to Havana to gather evidence that may tie Posada to the nightclub bombing. A federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., is listening to evidence in that case.
Tuesday evening, Homeland Security authorities would not say whether they plan to take Posada into custody. An immigration court has already ruled that he entered the United States without proper paperwork.
An immigration judge in El Paso ordered Posada deported to any country, except Cuba or Venezuela. As a foreign national facing a final deportation order, Posada is subject to detention by the United States until authorities find a country willing to take him.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 prohibited indefinite detention for foreigners who cannot be deported, but it exempted those classified as detainees in "special circumstances."
Immigration administrators argue that Posada fits that category because his release could have "serious adverse foreign policy consequences." But a federal magistrate in El Paso said that for the United States to continue holding Posada, it would have to classify him as a terrorist, and recommended his release.
Judge Cardone, a President Bush appointee in 2003, accused the government of trying to use her court to declare Posada a terrorist when the case simply revolved around the issue of immigration fraud.
"In other words, the defendant had few options, and the government took advantage of his situation and manipulated it to serve its own ends," she wrote.
In Havana, the state-controlled media criticized the judge for freeing Posada, who has long been suspected of being involved in the explosion aboard the Cuban jetliner. Posada maintains he had nothing to do with it.
Posada has been out on $350,000 bond and staying with his his wife, Nieves, at her West Kendall apartment under 24-hour house arrest.
FBI informant Gilberto Abascal, the government's star witness against Posada, told The Miami Herald late Tuesday that he's not concerned about the dismissal: "It doesn't worry me. I was just going to tell the truth. I have nothing against Posada."
Miami Herald staff writer Oscar Corral and translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.
© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
US judge drops charges against anti-Castro militant
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from AFP
MIAMI (AFP) - A US federal judge in Texas freed anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles after dropping immigration charges against the ex-CIA contractor whom Cuba and Venezuela call a terrorist.
"I am free," exclaimed Posada Carriles, 79, on Miami's Radio Mambi, shortly after the judge in El Paso dropped all seven charges linked to his sneaking into the United States and lying to immigration authorities.
"Thank God, you, all of my brothers, the people in Cuba .. for this victory," said Posada Carriles, who is accused by Cuba and Venezuela of masterminding a 1976 plane bombing that killed 73 people.
"This is a total victory, it is a victory for the Cuban-American people, for the Cuban people," his lawyer, Arturo Hernández said.
In her 38-page order, Judge Kathleen Cardone said the US government improperly obtained the seven-count criminal indictment.
She said authorities tricked Posada Carriles into giving evidence during a two-day naturalization interview, even though he was not eligible for citizenship because of a previous conviction in Panama.
"This court finds that the government engaged in fraud, deceit, and trickery when it misrepresented to defendant that the purpose of asking him such extensive questions about his means of entry into the United States, his conduct in Panama and Venezuela, and his use of various aliases and passports was merely to 'clarify the record'," Cardone wrote.
Posada Carriles was jailed in Venezuela in 1976 for allegedly masterminding the downing of a Cuban jet off Barbados.
He escaped in 1985, was sentenced to eight years in jail in Panama for a 2000 bomb plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, and was pardoned four years later.
US authorities are investigating whether Posada Carriles was involved in a 1997 Havana hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist, the Miami Herald reported last week.
Posada Carriles has not been indicted in the United States for any of the attacks, though a grand jury in New Jersey is reportedly pursuing the 1997 bombing.
The Cuban-born Venezuelan national was detained by US immigration officials in May 2005 after allegedly entering the United States illegally through Mexico.
"The realm of this case is not, as some have suggested, terrorism. It is immigration fraud," Cardone said.
"Terrorism, and the determination of whether or not to classify an individual as a terrorist, lies within the sound discretion of the executive branch. It does not lie with this court," the judge said.
Authorities in Havana and Caracas, and relatives of victims of the 1976 bombing, insist Posada Carriles should be tried as a dangerous terrorist responsible for the deaths of dozens of people.
Castro claimed on Monday an earlier decision to free Posada Carriles on bond pending what was the be the May 11 start of the trial had encouraged two army deserters to attempt to hijack a plane in Havana last week, with deadly consequences for two other soldiers.
The failed hijacking was "a result of the freeing of a terrorist monster," Castro wrote in Cuba's state-run Granma daily.
Cuba and Venezuela have both demanded Posada Carriles's extradition, but US authorities refused, saying he might be tortured, and failed to find takers when they suggested sending him to a third country.
Declassified US documents show that Posada Carriles worked for the CIA from 1965 to June 1976. He also reportedly helped the US government ferry supplies to the Contra rebels who waged a bloody campaign to topple the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Cuban militant's indictment tossed out
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from AP
EL PASO, Texas - A federal judge on Tuesday threw out an indictment accusing a Cuban militant of lying to immigration authorities, saying the government manipulated Luis Posada Carriles' statement to investigators.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone said the interpretation of the April 2006 interview "is so inaccurate as to render it unreliable as evidence of defendant's actual statement."
Authorities said he confessed to sneaking across the Mexican border into Texas.
Posada's attorneys argued in their motion to dismiss the case that the interview was just a way for the government to get more information about the ongoing investigation against him.
"This is a victory for all freedom-loving Cubans in the world and a validation of the American legal system," Arturo V. Hernandez, Posada's attorney, told The Associated Press through his office in Miami.
The judge said Posada was entitled to certain rights under the U.S. Constitution.
"This Court will not set aside such rights nor overlook Government misconduct because Defendant is a political hot potato," she wrote. "This Court's concern is not politics; it is the preservation of criminal justice."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said prosecutors were reviewing the ruling.
Posada, a 79-year-old former CIA operative and fierce opponent of Fidel Castro, was scheduled to stand trial next week in Texas on immigration fraud charges.
He was released last month from jail where he had been held since his May 2005 arrest. An immigration judge has ruled that Posada could not be deported to Cuba, where he was born, or Venezuela, where he is a naturalized citizen, because of fears that he could be tortured.
Cuba and Venezuela want Posada extradited for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, but the United States has refused to send him to either country. Posada has denied involvement in the bombing that killed 73 people.
Judge throws out charges against anti-Castro militant
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from CNN
(CNN) -- A federal judge dropped charges against former CIA operative and anti-Castro Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles on Tuesday, blasting what she called government "fraud, deceit and trickery" in an interview with Posada that led to the charges.
Posada, 79, was charged with seven counts of immigration fraud. He was arrested in Miami in May 2005 after entering the country illegally.
U.S. district judge Kathleen Cardone ordered Posada's electronic bracelet cut off in the courtroom Tuesday and cleared the way for him to return to Miami a free man.
Posada's attorney, Arturo Hernandez, told CNN the ruling was "an incredible legal victory."
The Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security said they were reviewing Cardone's decision.
Cuba, Venezuela want Posada to face charges
The Cuban government reacted angrily to news of Posada's release, calling him a "known terrorist" in a statement released by Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington.
In the statement, the Cuban government blames the White House for having "made all the efforts necessary to protect the bin Laden of the hemisphere, [out of] fear that he could have talked and recount the whole history about the U.S. government links with his terrorists' activities."
The Cuban government accuses Posada of being involved in the 1976 downing of a Cuban passenger plane, which killed 73 people. Posada has denied any role in the airliner attack.
He's also accused of being involved in a string of hotel bombings in Havana and making attempts on the life of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Venezuela and Cuba have both asked that Posada be extradited, but an immigration judge in September 2005 ruled he could not be sent to either country out of concern he might face torture there.
Posada's presence in the United States presented a problem for U.S. officials, who want to support anti-Castro Cubans but were sensitive to terrorist charges against Posada.
"As with each and every defendant who comes before this court, defendant in this case is entitled to certain rights under the United States Constitution," Cardone wrote in her 38-page ruling. "This court will not set aside such rights nor overlook government misconduct because defendant is a political hot potato. This court's concern is not politics, it is the preservation of criminal justice."
Judge condemns government's 'manipulation'
Cardone threw out the interview with immigration authorities that was the basis of the charges against Posada. The interview was poorly translated for him, she found, and "No effective communication existed between defendant and the interviewers."
"In light of the fact that the indictment in this case is based upon statements made during the naturalization interview, this court finds that the interpretation is so inaccurate as to render it unreliable as evidence of defendant's actual statements," she wrote.
In addition, Cardone condemned what she called government manipulation in the case, noting that Posada's naturalization interview was unusual in that it stretched eight hours over two days, as opposed to the usual maximum of 30 minutes.
Cardone called the interview a "pretext for a criminal investigation."
Although "warnings" were provided to Posada at the beginning of the interview, she wrote, they were read to him in English without any translation, and his attorney continually was told that if Posada exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, it would result in termination of the interview.
"More importantly," she wrote, "defendant did not receive an explanation of the true import of the government's inquiry."
The "defendant had few options, and the government took advantage of his situation and manipulated it to serve its own ends," she wrote.
She said the mere fact that he was questioned about bombings "belies the argument that this was a routine naturalization interview."
Government 'violated universal sense of justice'
"This court finds the government's tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice," Cardone wrote. "As a result, this court is left with no choice but to dismiss the indictment."
Posada was jailed for nine years in Venezuela in connection with the airliner attack, but was never convicted and escaped in 1985. In Panama, he was convicted of plotting with three Cuban exiles to kill Castro while the leader was visiting Panama in 2000. He later received a presidential pardon and surfaced in Guatemala and Mexico before heading to the United States.
He has said he was smuggled over the Mexican border into Texas and came by bus to South Florida. However, the government argued that his longtime friend and benefactor, Santiago Alvarez, smuggled him into the country on his fishing boat. Alvarez is currently jailed on unrelated weapons charges.
Posada received CIA training in explosives and sabotage at Fort Benning, Georgia, after he helped organize the failed Bay of Pigs operation to oust Castro in 1961. He has said he stopped working for the CIA in 1968, but in the 1980s helped the U.S.-based secret Contra supply network in Central America.
After his U.S. arrest, Posada was held in a New Mexico jail. He posted $350,000 bond last month, prompting outrage from Venezuela and other countries.
U.S. charges against anti-Castro militant dropped
by Jeff Franks
May 8, 2007
Reprinted from Reuters
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge threw out all charges against anti-Castro Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles on Tuesday, less than a week before he was supposed to go to trial.
Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, dismissed the seven-count indictment accusing Posada Carriles, 79, of immigration fraud.
Boyd said he did not know yet whether federal prosecutors would appeal the ruling.
"We're reviewing the decision," he said.
Cardone allowed Posada Carriles to leave jail last month on bail totaling $350,000. He has been in Miami, living with his wife and awaiting trial.
Defense attorney Felipe Millan said Cardone ruled that statements by Posada Carriles that were to be used against him in the trial starting on Monday had been obtained unconstitutionally.
His lawyers had sought last week to have the statements excluded from the trial on grounds that U.S. officials had entrapped him by not telling him that what he thought was an immigration interview was actually a criminal interrogation.
"They tricked him," Millan said.
Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, has a long history of violent opposition to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
CONSIDERED A TERRORIST
He is considered a terrorist in Cuba and Venezuela, where he is accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. He lived in Venezuela at the time of the bombing, which killed 73 people, and is a naturalized citizen there.
Cuba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have criticized Washington for having a double standard in its war on terror, saying Posada Carriles was being treated with kid gloves because of his CIA past. They say he should be charged with terrorism and murder, not immigration crimes.
"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, which has requested Posada Carriles' extradition.
"I think the correct way to go here is to prosecute him for murder and terrorism. Whether the government will actually do it, you'll have to ask them," Pertierra said.
Posada Carriles had been in U.S. custody since May 2005 after he entered the country illegally and sought asylum.
In January, he was indicted on seven immigration fraud charges accusing of lying to immigration authorities and faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Millan said Posada Carriles left the courthouse a free man on Tuesday and was headed back to Miami.
"He is elated," said another of his attorneys, Arturo Hernandez, in Miami. "He is very gratified that the system has worked."
Posada Carriles 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.
Cuba also accuses him of masterminding bomb blasts in Havana hotels in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.
(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Miami and Bruce Nichols in Houston)