Three jailed in '98 over Cuba bombings go to trial this week
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN
Three Guatemalans jailed in Cuba since 1998 for allegedly participating in a bombing campaign at tourist spots are expected to go to court this week to face terrorism charges.
The trial for María Elena González Meza de Fernández, 57, her husband Jazid Iván Fernández Mendoza, 31, and Nadel Kamal Musalam, also 31, is scheduled to begin Thursday.
Cuban prosecutors are seeking maximum sentences of 20 to 30 years in the cases.
The three were arrested in March 1998. Cuban authorities allegedly discovered explosive materials hidden in luggage.
``These three years have been really hard,'' said Gladis de Fernández, mother of Jazid Iván Fernández. ``My son is a good person.''
De Fernández said she did not believe her son was involved in any sort of bombing attempts in Cuba.
All three of the defendants are formally charged with ``crimes against state security.''
Cuban authorities have publicly labeled them terrorists and suggested
they are tied with a Central American terrorist network responsible for
a string of bombings in
Havana and the resort city of Varadero, including one that killed an Italian tourist in 1997.
The Cuban government also has alleged links between the bombings
and Fidel Castro's opponents in Miami. Cuba has long claimed itself as
a victim of terror tactics
financed by Cuban Americans in exile.
Guatemalan officials had previously expressed outrage over the persistent delay of the trial, which culminated with Guatemala joining a United Nations vote in April to censure Cuba for its human rights record.
``Since '99 the Guatemalan government has focused efforts on getting them to trial,'' said Edgar Arana, the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokesman. ``We ask that the trial take place, though what happens in the trial is part of Cuba's internal legal system, which we respect.''
Relatives hope sentences can be served in Guatemala, but Arana said ``there are no treaties with Cuba about that.''
De Fernández said she did not understand why the judicial process in Cuba has taken so long.
``I just hope it's a fair trial and that my son can come home.''
Guatemala correspondent Megan Feldman contributed to this report, which was supplemented with Herald wire services.