South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 11, 2003

6 Cubans repatriated after hijacking attempt go on trial in Camaguey

Associated Press

HAVANA -- The six men charged in last month's hijacking of a government-owned boat went on trial Monday in the central-eastern provincial capital of Camaguey,
authorities here confirmed.

Honoring a promise to the U.S. government that they would seek no more than 10 years in prison for those charged, Cuban prosecutors asked between seven to 10
years for the men, according to those inside the proceedings.

The case has sparked debate in Florida's Cuban exile community, where some leaders criticized American officials for repatriating 12 Cuban men initially suspected in
the hijacking, along with three security guards who were held hostage.

After the men were returned to the island on July 21, Cuban authorities held six of the men, freeing the other six.

The men and the prison sentences sought for them were: Adel Napoles Rodriguez, seven years; Yosvel Chavez Novo, eight years; Angel David Velasquez Roldan and
Mijail Suarez, nine years; and Antonio Carrion Pena and Noelvis Martinez Carrion, 10 years.

Exact ages were not given from the men, who all apparently hailed from the central-eastern town of Nuevitas in Camaguey province, about 340 miles east of Havana.

Exile leaders warned that the men's lives would be endangered if they were returned to their communist homeland.

Even Florida Gov. Jeb Bush criticized the decision by the administration of his brother, U.S. President George W. Bush.

U.S. officials had initially worried about the men's safety because of the April 11 execution of the three Cuban ferry hijackers.

But Havana assured Washington that the men would not be executed and prosecutors would seek no more than 10 years in prison for those convicted of
commandeering the boat owned by Geocuba, a government company that does geological exploration and mapping.

U.S. officials said the Cubans were deemed ineligible for amnesty because they had committed acts of violence in Cuba as well as against U.S. Coast Guard personnel
who boarded the 36-foot boat in the Florida Straits.

Under U.S. policy, most Cuban migrants intercepted at sea are repatriated and those who reach land are generally allowed to stay and apply for American residency
after a year.

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