Posada's lawyer claims lack of evidence
Lawyers for Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles asked a judge to throw out the government's evidence against Posada, claiming it's based on hearsay and media reports.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY AND OSCAR CORRAL
A lawyer for anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles is asking an immigration judge to throw out the U.S. government's case against his client, arguing that it hangs on hearsay testimony that Posada masterminded the bombing of Cuban tourist sites and other terrorist acts.
Attorney Eduardo Soto is also fighting Posada's deportation, saying that his client has had a relapse of skin cancer and has a worsening heart condition.
U.S. immigration authorities declined to comment on the motion.
Soto contends the case is tainted because it is partly based on an interview Posada gave a New York Times correspondent who likely will refuse to testify.
The Posada interview with The New York Times in 1998 is a key component in the U.S. government's case to deny him asylum because Posada reportedly acknowledged his involvement in the Havana blasts, which killed an Italian tourist.
The motion was filed in preparation for next Monday's immigration hearing in El Paso, where Posada will ask a judge to release him on bail. Soto said doctors had recently discovered that Posada is suffering from new manifestations of skin cancer and a heart condition.
A key point for Soto has always been that Posada has not been directly linked to an attack -- only via hearsay from supposed accomplices who have been convicted of attacks and have no credibility.
The closest link comes from Cuban investigative records, which The Herald reviewed in Panama. The records say that one of the Havana bombers linked Posada to the terror attacks in Cuba. U.S. immigration authorities don't cite the Cuban records found in Panama, where Posada and three accomplices were once accused of trying to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The Cuban case files contain signed confessions by one of the two convicted bombers -- Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena, who said Posada hired, paid and trained him for the attacks. At the time, Rodriguez said, Posada was using the alias Ignacio Medina.
''Medina visited him in his office and gave him a passport with a plane ticket, a visa and a tourist package for three nights at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, a Casio calculator, a detonator, an interface, a battery to put in a digital radio, a green nylon bag with explosives and markings of where to set the detonators,'' said the confession signed by Rodriguez.
Matthew J. Archambeault, a lawyer in Soto's office, called the Cuban investigation ''unreliable.'' Homeland Security declined to comment.
Cuba sent the files to Panama, hoping that country would extradite Posada to Cuba to stand trial, but Panama refused.
Cuba has been widely condemned for its lack of an independent legal system.
''It's a justice system that doesn't guarantee a right to a fair trial, doesn't guarantee judicial independence, and doesn't guarantee due process,'' said Joanne Mariner, deputy director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, which monitors human right abuses around the world.
Posada and three other Cuban exiles were convicted in Panama of endangering the public because they allegedly had explosives, but then-President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them last year.
According to the Cuban files, Rodriguez told investigators how Posada -- posing as Medina -- gave him instructions on where to place and how to assemble the explosives.
''Medina proposed placing an explosive device in one of the tourist sites in our country with the goal of discrediting tourism,'' Rodriguez's purported confession says. ``As payment, Medina told Rodriguez he would be paid $1,000 plus the expenses of the trip and he agreed to it.''
On Aug. 3, 1997, Rodriguez walked into the lobby of the Hotel Melia Cohiba, slipped the bomb under a couch and left. It exploded the next day, causing damage but no injuries.
Rodriguez said he returned to El Salvador, and Medina paid him $1,000, then sent him back to Cuba: ''Medina gave him a briefcase with a false bottom, a pair of shoes, a container of shampoo, a tube of toothpaste, and a tube of deodorant all containing plastic explosives,'' the signed confession says.
Cuban authorities caught Rodriguez in June of 1998, as he tried to smuggle the explosives. He was convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.
Also sentenced to death is Cruz. The Cuban government said he planted four bombs at three Havana hotels -- Chateau Miramar, Copacabana and Triton Hotel -- and at the landmark Bodeguita del Medio restaurant in colonial Havana. The Copacabana blast killed Italian national Fabio DiCelmo.
After his arrest, Cruz told Cuban investigators a man named Francisco Chavez Abarca hired him for the attacks. Cruz Leon never met Posada, but a Herald investigation discovered in 1997 links between Chavez and Posada.
Posada, in the 1998 interview with The New York Times, admitted a role in the bombings -- but he has since refused to repeat his confession.
The Herald first linked Posada to the bombings in a 1997 investigation, which found that he was the key link between the Salvadoran bombers and South Florida exiles who raised $15,000 for the operation.
Soto's motion said media reports included in the government's package cannot be used in the case because they cannot be corroborated.