USA Today
January 6, 1999

                   France to probe Castro charges

                   PARIS - A lawyer representing a Cuban exile in France filed a complaint
                   Wednesday against Fidel Castro, accusing Cuba's leader of international
                   drug-trafficking, judicial officials said.

                   The complaint was filed with Paris courts by lawyer Serge Lewisch on
                   behalf of Ileana de la Guardia. She is the daughter of Cuban Col. Antonio
                   de la Guardia, who was executed in Cuba in 1989 for allegedly smuggling
                   drugs into the United States, said the officials, who requested anonymity.

                   Lewisch also filed complaints against Castro on behalf of a French
                   photographer, Pierre Golendorf, who spent 2½ years in a Cuban jail, and
                   Cuban artist Lazaro Jordana, jailed for four years for illegally leaving the

                   Both men accuse Castro of ''crimes against humanity,'' including torture and
                   murder, the officials said. No further details were immediately available.

                   The judicial officials said a judge would be required to open an
                   investigation due to the gravity of the accusations. That investigation could
                   eventually lead to the filing of criminal charges against Castro.

                   However, they said it was unlikely the charges of crimes against humanity
                   would stand because Castro has immunity as a head of state.

                   In November, a Spanish court rejected petition by a Cuban exile group for
                   a probe into allegations of genocide, terrorism and torture filed against

                   But the drug-trafficking charges could stand, they said, because French law
                   respects the immunity of foreign leaders only in cases directly linked to the
                   sovereignty of the state in question. Drug trafficking would not fall into that
                   category, they said.

                   De la Guardia was executed by a firing squad alongside Maj. Gen. Arnaldo
                   Ochoa, Maj. Amado Padron and Capt. Jorge Martinez. All confessed guilt
                   but asked for mercy based on their records and contrition.

                   The drug scandal stunned Castro's communist government, which for years
                   had denied U.S. accusations that Cuba was being used to smuggle cocaine
                   and marijuana to the United States.

                   At the time of the trial, Castro said the scandal had done immense internal
                   damage and eroded Cuba's international image.

                   Lewisch charged that the United States knew in the late 1980s that Cuba
                   had become a major conduit for drugs, and that the Caribbean island was
                   using the revenue to fight the U.S. trade embargo and fund its forces in

                   He said the four officials were scapegoats, executed to deflect accusations
                   of drug-trafficking away from Castro.

                   Lewisch, encouraged by Spain's efforts to bring former Chilean dictator
                   Augusto Pinochet to trial for human rights abuses, said he hoped France
                   would eventually issue an arrest warrant for Castro.

                   ''French jurisdiction has the competence to investigate these complaints and
                   deliver an arrest warrant for Fidel Castro,'' Lewisch told The Associated

                   Judicial sources said prosecutors would need to prove that the drugs were
                   destined for Europe, and France in particular, as Lewisch claims.

                   By The Associated Press