The Miami Herald
November 2, 2001

3 express regret for bomb plot

 Associated Press

 HAVANA -- Three Guatemalans accused of plotting to bring bomb-making materials into Cuba expressed regret Thursday as they went on trial for terrorism charges.

 ``This whole time has been a nightmare,'' defendant María Elena González Meza de Fernández, 57, told a five-member tribunal.

 ``I am ashamed to have been involved in this plan,'' she said, dabbing her eyes with a paper tissue. ``I humbly ask for forgiveness.''

 Fernández, her husband, Jazid Iván Fernandez Mendoza, 31, and fellow Guatemalan Nadel Musalam, 31, are accused of working for a Central American terrorist network that planted a series of bombs in Cuba in 1997 and 1998.

 They have all confessed to the crimes and face charges ranging from 20 to 30 years.

 Communist officials have said that the network was funded by Cuban exiles opposed to Fidel Castro's government and that the bombings were aimed at damaging the economy by scaring away tourists.

 Two Salvadoran men earlier confessed to carrying out several successful bombings, including one that killed an Italian visitor.

 They were convicted and sentenced to death by a Cuban court in March 1999, but remain behind bars pending appeals.

 Officials said the hearing is likely to wrap up today. A verdict was expected 10 days to two weeks after the trial ends, with sentencing to follow.

 Musalam, 31, was arrested in March 1998 after he arrived at the Havana international airport and customs officials found plastic explosives, detonators and other
 bomb-making materials in his luggage. The C-4 explosives were hidden in plastic shampoo bottles.

                                    © 2001