INS: Man lied about torture
Alleged rights violator could lose citizenship
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Federal immigration agents on Tuesday arrested Miami resident Eriberto Mederos, an alleged human rights violator, on charges he lied about torturing Cuban political prisoners with electroshock treatment at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital years ago.
Aloyma Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Miami, said Mederos, 78, was in federal custody charged with ``illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship'' because he failed to disclose the allegations when he sought that citizenship in 1992.
Agents from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested Mederos at his home after a federal grand jury handed down an indictment intended to strip the Cuban American of his U.S. citizenship, a Justice Department source said.
``Justice has been done,'' said Eugenio de Sosa Chabau, 85, one of Mederos' alleged victims, when told about the arrest.
Mederos has acknowledged that while an orderly at the hospital he gave electroshock treatment to patients, but he denied it amounted to torture. He said the treatment was ordered by doctors and given as a medical procedure.
Mederos is one of the first high-profile Cuban Americans to face the possibility of having his U.S. citizenship revoked by federal prosecutors on a charge stemming from allegations of torture under the Fidel Castro regime.
Justice Department sources said the legal strategy will be similar
to cases federal prosecutors have used since the 1970s to revoke the U.S.
citizenship of Nazi war
criminals found living in the United States.
``It's wonderful news,'' said Richard Krieger, head of the Boynton Beach-based human rights organization International Educational Missions. Krieger was the first human rights activist to push the INS to arrest and prosecute Mederos.
He joined forces in April with Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Díaz-Balart who wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft urging Mederos' prosecution.
``We are elated that finally Mederos' day in court will come,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``We had been working toward this for many years.''
Federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office in Miami began working on the case in the spring in coordination with INS investigators who had been tracking Mederos for months. After his arrest late Tuesday afternoon, Mederos was taken to the Federal Detention Center in Miami.
He's expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in front of U.S. Magistrate Ted Bandstra.
Mederos began working at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital in the 1940s. In the 1970s, he administered electroshock treatment to several political prisoners confined at Mazorra, as the psychiatric hospital was known in Cuba. Mederos arrived in the United States in the mid-1980s.
His alleged role in human rights atrocities was exposed in 1991 in a book published in Washington and New York titled The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba. In 1992, the allegations received further publicity when The Herald published accounts from his alleged victims who now live in South Florida.
Also in 1992, Mederos applied for U.S. citizenship. He received it from the INS in May 1993. When Mederos applied for citizenship, he was asked whether he ever participated in persecution.
Justice Department sources said prosecutors at trial will try to show evidence gathered from Mederos' alleged victims that he lied in not revealing his role in the shock treatment.
© 2001 The Miami Herald