Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Terrorism probes still haunting Posada at 80

Posted on Tue, Feb. 26, 2008

Miami Herald

Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant, celebrated his 80th birthday this month at an undisclosed location in Miami, but many serious legal and political questions about his alleged crimes as a younger man still loom as large as ever.

In New Jersey, Posada is the ''target'' of a federal grand jury investigation into the series of 1997 tourist-site bombings in Havana, his attorney Arturo Hernandez confirmed to The Miami Herald. Posada has denied any involvement in the bombings.

In Washington, Posada's alleged role in the bombing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people is being revisited by a Democratic lawmaker from Massachusetts who plans to hold congressional hearings on the matter in the spring.

And Posada's immigration status remains an issue with the Justice Deparment, which is pressing its appeal of a Texas judge's decision to dismiss an indictment that charged the Cuban with lying about his 2005 entry into the United States.

Indeed, everyone seems to have something to say about the former CIA-trained explosives expert who remains a freedom fighter in the minds of some and an international terrorist in the eyes of others.

Posada isn't talking to the media, but his attorney says the octogenarian is an innocent man in poor health who wants to spend the rest of his life in Miami among family, friends and exiles.


Perhaps Posada's most serious legal challenge is in Newark, N.J., where a federal grand jury, now in its third year, is weighing whether to indict Posada on conspiracy charges for the killing of an Italian tourist in a 1997 hotel bombing in Havana.

Justice officials won't comment, but they have a fax and other documents showing that Posada allegedly coordinated $3,200 in wire transfers from Cuban exiles in New Jersey to co-conspirators in Central America for the bombing campaign. Also, FBI agents have questioned jailed bombing recruits in Cuba and key witnesses in the United States and Central America familiar with Posada's alleged mission to disrupt the Cuban tourism industry.

One potential witness -- a notable writer who coauthored a 1998 New York Times series on Posada's history of violent activities against former Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- said she received grand jury subpoenas but has not testified before the New Jersey panel.

The series was based on her six-hour interview, most of it tape-recorded, with Posada in which he admitted to masterminding the Havana tourist-site bombings.

''They do not need me,'' author Ann Louise Bardach said.

Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, is more than willing to enter the political fray.

But Delahunt's interest has nothing to do with the 1997 bombings. He's interested in Posada's alleged role in the bombing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, including members of the Cuban national fencing team.

Posada was acquitted by a Venezuelan military tribunal. While awaiting a retrial by a civil court in Venezuela, Posada escaped from prison in 1985.

Delahunt, annoyed by the government's lack of response to Venezuela's extradition request to try Posada, has drafted a resolution calling on the administration to urge the United Nations to create an ad hoc tribunal to prosecute him. He also plans to hold more public hearings on Capitol Hill.

''You cannot talk about a war on terror while Posada is still running around [South] Florida,'' said Caleb Rossiter, one of Delahunt's top aides.


But Posada has supporters in Washington, mainly Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.

In defending Posada, Rohrabacher points out that a 1977 taped interview by a New York-based journalist reveals that he never admitted to planting the airliner bomb.

In a Jan. 30 letter to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, Rohrabacher said testimony by journalist Blake Fleetwood was inconsistent with the reporter's own tapes.

Fleetwood said Rohrabacher has distorted his statements. In an e-mail to The Miami Herald, Fleetwood wrote: ``There is no doubt in my mind, from what Posada told me during my interview, that Posada was deeply involved in the conspiracy that culminated in the planting of the bomb and the deaths of 73 innocent civilians.''

Hernandez denied that his client was involved in any way and dismissed allegations of terrorism.
``He's not a terrorist. He's never been a terrorist.''


Unpublished Letter to Miamii Herald

To the Editor;


It is often said that terrorism lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Real horrific crimes are committed, but political identification too often clouds moral judgment.

Think of Northern Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Sri Lanka, even 9/11. One man's villain is another man's hero.

Venezuela and Cuba demand extradition from the US of Luis Posada Carriles as a terrorist and the US justifies the anachronistic listing of Cuba as a terrorist state because it has given asylum to Joanne Cheismard. Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down by a country protecting its sovereign air space or as wanton murder.

After 49 years, it's time to stop. Terrible inhumane things are done by both sides in war, revolution and counter-revolution, with the noblest of self-proclaimed intentions.

Cuba has a new leader, as soon will the US. They must show the courage to bridge 90 miles with a spirit of mutual respect. After a long conflict, wishing that the other were different is normal. However, setting preconditions for talking, insisting that the antagonist must first change itself to become an acceptable interlocutor, means one is not serious about solving problems.

John McAuliff

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