October 4, 2001

Cuban exiles act against Castro

BRUSSELS, Belgium --Cuban exiles have filed a lawsuit under Belgian war crime
laws accusing President Fidel Castro of human rights abuses committed during his
42 years of power.

The group of nine Cuban exiles launched the court case on Thursday for crimes
against humanity.

Paul Sher, their American lawyer, filed a complaint with a Belgian magistrate alleging
Castro committed crimes "concerning false imprisonment, torture and persecution."

The exiles are filing the case under a special 1993 Belgian law that gives local courts
jurisdiction over violations of the Geneva war crimes convention.

The law allows claimants to pursue cases against foreign nationals suspected of war
crimes or crimes against humanity no matter where they occurred.

In the first case to be tried under the law, four Rwandans were sentenced earlier this
year to between 12 and 20 years in prison for their role in the 1994 genocide against
the country's Tutsi ethnic minority.

The law is at the centre of an attempt to try Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over
a 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Lebanon.

An appeals court is currently debating whether Sharon can be prosecuted in

Sher said Belgian magistrate Patrick Collignon was expected to consider whether the
Cubans' case was admissible.

If extradited and convicted Castro could face a 30-year jail sentence.

The communist leader, who has held power since a 1959 revolution, joins a growing
list of political leaders, including Sharon and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, facing
possible trials for crimes against humanity.

Larry Klayman, chairman of U.S.-based Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group
helping to represent the Cuban-American claimants, told the Associated Press: "This
is 42 years of abuse and torture. There is absolutely no way the court cannot take
this seriously."

Jose Basulto, head of the Miami-based group Brothers to the Rescue, which is
bringing the case, is also seeking to indict the Cuban leader and his brother Raul for
murder in U.S. courts.

The Brothers to the Rescue group hit the headlines when four of its members were
killed in 1996 after two planes they were piloting were shot down by Cuba over the
Florida Straits.

Judicial Watch and the Cuban American National Foundation, a leading exile group,
have also campaigned for Castro's indictment at the state or federal level.

"Now Castro himself must be brought to justice," Basulto said.

Another claimant is 85-year old Eugenio de Sosa Chabau, a former newspaper editor
in Havana, who was jailed for 21 years by Cuban authorities for opposing the Castro

"I was put in prison, I was tortured," said De Sosa Chabau who was released from
custody in 1980.

Other claimants include survivors from the tugboat "13 de Marzo," which sank off
the coast of Cuba in July 1994. Of the 72 Cubans on board, 41 drowned.