September 21, 2000

Cuba starts trial of elderly exile 'invaders'

                 HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- A Cuban court on Thursday began the trial of two
                 elderly anti-communist Cuban Americans captured with arms in 1998 after
                 landing on the island from Florida, a dissident group said.

                 Ernestino Abreu Horta, 76, and Vicente Marcelino Rodriguez Martinez, 66, were
                 apparently being charged with rebellion by a court in the western province of
                 Pinar del Rio, and could spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted.

                 The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a rights
                 group not recognized by the government, described them as simply "political
                 opponents of the Cuban government" and said Abreu was a "known political
                 leader of the Cuban exile community in the United States."

                 Specifically, Abreu once headed the Miami-based Patriotic Cuban Front, the
                 commission said. There was no word on the case from Cuban officials or state

                 Cuba's state prosecution was seeking 26-year jail sentences for the pair, and was
                 also asking for 10-year sentences for another three men, presumably relatives
                 who had contact with them on their arrival in Pinar del Rio, according to the
                 rights' commission.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.