Man linked to Cuba torture wants trial out of Miami
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Eriberto Mederos, a Cuban exile who risks losing his U.S. citizenship over
allegations that he tortured
political prisoners at a Havana psychiatric hospital, is seeking to move his trial out of Miami -- or have
the charges modified or thrown out altogether.
In motions filed this week in federal court, Mederos' attorney, David Rothman,
is asking the judge to
throw out the indictment, or part of it, on the grounds that the alleged crimes occurred beyond the legal
limit stated in immigration law. He is also asking to move the trial out of Miami because of ''bias and
hostility'' against his client in the Cuban exile community.
There is a status hearing Friday before U.S. District Judge Alan Gold,
who may rule on the motions,
decide if the trial is on track or delay proceedings if either side needs more time.
Mederos was arrested Sept. 4, charged in a federal indictment with illegally
obtaining citizenship by
lying about his past. In his application, Mederos did not reveal his past membership in the Cuban
Communist Party or that he had tortured political prisoners with electroshock treatment at the Havana
Psychiatric Hospital, known as Mazorra, according to the indictment.
Mederos has consistently declined comment since his arrest. But in interviews
with The Herald in 1992,
when the allegations surfaced, Mederos acknowledged that he administered electroshock treatment,
but only when medically prescribed by doctors.
If convicted, Mederos could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison
and be stripped of his
citizenship. The Immigration and Naturalization Service would then seek to deport him to Cuba.
Federal law requires that an applicant for citizenship be of ''good moral
character'' during the five years
before filing for naturalization, Rothman wrote, adding that Mederos filed in 1992, while the alleged
crimes occurred between 1968 and 1978 -- more than a decade before he applied for citizenship.
The naturalization form simply asks whether an applicant has ''ever'' committed
a crime for which he has
not been arrested or whether the applicant has ''ever'' persecuted ``any person because of race,
religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.''
But language in federal law governing naturalization says ''good moral
character'' applies to the five
years before filing.
In another motion, Rothman is seeking a change of venue because there is
''so great a prejudice'' in
Miami against Mederos that he cannot receive a ``fair and impartial trial.''
Rothman said the bias stems from the ''deeply rooted passions'' of the
Cuban exile community and
pretrial media coverage that has been ``pervasive, inflammatory and of the nature to cause ill-will
vindictiveness against Mr. Mederos.''
U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis could not be reached for comment.