The Miami Herald
Jun. 21, 2002

Spy suspect denies role for Castro

U.S. wants to deport him


  Accused Cuban spy Juan Emilio Aboy on Thursday adamantly denied federal allegations that he was a covert agent for the Fidel Castro government and a member of a Cuban spy ring dismantled by the FBI in Miami four years ago.

  ''Someone is trying to frame me,'' Aboy, 41, said in his first interview since federal immigration agents arrested him May 30 at his southwest Miami home. ``I never
  came to this country to spy. Never in my life, did I come here to spy. No one sent me here to spy. The government of Cuba did not send me here to spy. I escaped from Cuba on a boat.''

  Aboy, a Soviet-trained military diver in Cuba, spoke at the Krome detention center minutes after appearing at his first major hearing before an immigration judge where attorneys from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service laid out the specific allegations against him.

  According to a document in which the INS lists the allegations, Aboy ''engaged in activities to violate a law of the United States, relating to espionage,'' ''failed to register with the attorney general'' as someone trained in espionage and concealed his intent to spy on the United States when he applied for a green card in 1996.


  At the hearing, which was closed to the media, Aboy's attorney -- Grisel Ybarra -- said she denied the allegations and presented what she described as evidence that Aboy did not conceal his Cuban military background from U.S. officials.

  ''In 1994, when he escaped from Cuba and was interviewed by U.S. officials in Guantanamo six times, he told them who he was,'' Ybarra said after the hearing. She also gave The Herald a copy of Aboy's visa application filled out at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay where he listed his occupation as ``lieutenant marine war/Cuba.''

  But Dan Vara, chief legal officer for the INS Miami district, said the relevant issue is that Aboy did not register with the Attorney General as required by law for foreign nationals trained in espionage. Vara also said that Aboy did not tell any U.S. official that he was trained in espionage and that the U.S. government has evidence he was trained in such tactics.

  Vara said the INS will disclose specific evidence about Aboy by the next hearing now scheduled for July 23.

  Ybarra, Aboy's attorney, said INS told the immigration court that Aboy had been ordered to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command, which is based in Miami-Dade and serves as military nerve center for the Caribbean and Latin America.

  ''They told the judge he was a courier for the Wasp Network, who used a cylinder to pass on information and that other spies would testify to that,'' she said.

  Aboy, in Thursday's interview, said the only cylinder he ever used was his diving oxygen tank.


  The allegation against Aboy, that he failed to register, is similar to charges made against some of the 12 Avispa or Wasp Network members who pleaded guilty or were convicted since the ring was dismantled in 1998.

  But in Aboy's case, federal authorities have not charged him criminally and instead of seeking to put him in federal prison, they want him deported.

  Federal officials have said that the evidence against Aboy is significant, but not enough for prosecutors to win an espionage conviction.

  ''We have definitive evidence that Mr. Aboy is an unidentified co-conspirator [in the Avispa network],'' Vara said following a bond hearing Tuesday, adding that the
  convicted spies would testify against Aboy. He would not elaborate.

  But attorneys for some of the convicted spies said spy suspects who struck deals with the government to avoid trial helped prosecutors with the Aboy case.

  In the interview Thursday, Aboy said he never met any of the convicted Cuban spy suspects and that his training was for war -- not espionage.

  ''I was in the navy so therefore I had to know about diving,'' Aboy said.

  He added that in 1998, the year the Avispa network was busted, federal agents contacted him and asked whether he knew any of the people who had been arrested.


  'I told them, `No, I don't know those guys,' '' Aboy said Thursday. He added that one of the agents told him ``we know you are Gabriel.''

  Aboy said he told the agent that he was mistaken, that Gabriel is his 25-year-old son in Cuba.

  Aboy, who married in the United States and worked as a diver fixing underwater equipment at military installations and nuclear plants, left Cuba in 1994 on a small boat.

  He entered the U.S. in March 1995 and became a permanent resident in 1996.