Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cuban Ex-CIA Agent Acquitted in Texas Perjury Case

An elderly Cuban former CIA operative accused of
lying during a U.S. immigration hearing was acquitted
on all charges Friday, with jurors taking just three
hours to reach a verdict after enduring 13 weeks of
often-delayed testimony.

The abrupt decision ends four years of attempts by
the U.S. government to convict 83-year-old Luis
Posada Carriles, and means he no longer has to face
the prospect of spending the final years of his life in
prison, at least in the United States.

For decades, Posada worked to destabilize communist
governments throughout Latin America and was often
supported by Washington. He is Public Enemy No. 1
in his homeland, even considered ex-President Fidel
Castro's nemesis. In Havana, the government had no
immediate comment to his being cleared across-the-

After hearing he had been acquitted on all 11 counts
of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud, the
white-haired Posada grinned widely then hugged his
three attorneys simultaneously. Two of the attorneys
broke out in tears.

Across the aisle, a trio of federal prosecutors who
painstakingly built their case by calling 23 witnesses
over 11 weeks, sat dejectedly.

"Anytime a jury has a case, there's no telling what they
might do. But we respect the jury's decision,"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Reardon said
moments afterward. He declined further comment.

U.S. Marshalls escorted jurors out the back of the
courthouse and put them in a van, ensuring they did
not speak to reporters.

Posada, who has slurred his words since being shot
in the face and losing part of his tongue during a
1990 assassination attempt in Guatemala, joked softly
with his defense team, then left the courthouse a free

Asked if he worried the case might have gone the
Posada participated in the doomed Bay of Pigs
invasion, served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army
and was a CIA operative until 1976. He then moved to
Venezuela and served as head of that country's
intelligence service.

Also in 1976, he was arrested for planning the
bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Posada was acquitted by a military tribunal, but
escaped from prison while still facing a civilian trial.

He helped the U.S. funnel support to Nicaraguan
Contra rebels in the 1980s, and, in 2000, was
arrested in Panama amid a plot to kill Castro during a
summit there. He was pardoned by Panama's
president in 2004 and turned up in the U.S. the
following March.

Cuba and Venezuela would like to try Posada for the
1997 hotel bombings or the downing of the 1976
airliner, but a U.S. immigration judge has previously
ruled that he can't be sent to either country, for fear
he could be tortured.

Jose Pertierra, the Washington-based lawyer
representing Venezuela in its case against Posada sat
through every day of the trial and was crestfallen after
the verdict.

"The theater was worth more than the evidence in this
case. The evidence was strong. We heard the voice of
Luis Posada saying he was the mastermind of the
bombings," Pertierra said. He said Venezuela will
renew its efforts to have Posada extradited to face 73
counts of first-degree murder.

Pepe Hernandez, who heads the Cuban American
National Foundation in Miami and who trained with
Posada ahead of the Bay of Pigs invasion, applauded
the verdict.

"The U.S. government had a very scant case.
Obviously, it didn't have any evidence beyond that of
Ann Louise Bardach," Hernandez said, referring to the
reporter who interviewed Posada for the Times.

The U.S. tried to convict Posada in El Paso of the
seven perjury and immigration fraud charges in
2007, but U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone threw
that case out, chastising the government for using an
immigration hearing to build a criminal case against
other way, he said "of course" — especially Thursday
night with jurors preparing to deliberate.

Posada sneaked into the U.S. in 2005 and sought
political asylum, and later U.S. citizenship, for which
he went through immigration hearings in El Paso.

Prosecutors alleged that he lied while under oath
during those proceedings about how he made it into
the country and by denying he masterminded a series
of hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an
Italian tourist and wounded 12 other people.

Posada said in a 1998 interview with The New York
Times that he planned the attacks, but later recanted
that. During the trial, jurors heard more than two
hours of recordings from those interviews, but
apparently were not swayed by them.

The defense, which called just eight witnesses over
eight days, maintained Posada should have been
allowed to retire a hero in Miami, where he had been
living since his 2007 release from an immigration
detention center, for his service to the country during
the cold war.

When that ruling was overturned on appeal,
prosecutors added four new charges, including those
alleging obstruction of justice.


Hail Texans


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