Luis Posada Carriles trial for perjury, fraud
is set for March 1
by Darren Meritz
Feb. 6, 2009
Reprinted from El Paso Times
EL PASO -- Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant and former CIA operative linked to the 1976 bombing of a passenger aircraft that killed 73, was in an El Paso federal court Friday to get ready for his trial.
Posada, 82, is facing charges of perjury, obstruction and naturalization fraud in El Paso that stem from his 2005 effort to gain legal immigration status after coming to the United States.
The case is offering a rare glimpse into the storied life of Posada, who prosecutors say lied to Department of Homeland Security officers about his involvement in a series of 1997 bombings in Cuban tourist areas that left one man dead.
Friday's federal court hearing in El Paso came before Posada's March 1 trial date. U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone said the trial could last as long as two months.
In 2005, Posada was arrested and held at a detention center in El Paso. An immigration judge in El Paso ordered Posada deported but also said he should not be sent to Cuba or Vene zuela because of fears that he would be tortured.
Posada, who is free on bond, has been living with his family in Florida.
The Posada trial is expected to draw national and international attention, along with protesters who believe the federal government has not zealously prosecuted Posada because he is anti-Castro.
The CIA, meanwhile, has long been involved in Posada's activities, court documents indicate.
An unclassified summary of the CIA's relationship with Posada states the agency's first contact with him was in 1961 in connection with planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Posada was a "paid asset" of the CIA from 1965 to 1967, and again from 1968 to 1974, the summary said.
The CIA had intermittent contact with Posada from 1974 until 1976, the summary said. The agency ceased its relationship with Posada in 1976, the year a pair of bombs exploded on a Cuban passenger jetliner en route from Barbados to Cuba, killing all 73 people on board.
Cuban authorities have accused Posada of orchestrating the jetliner bombing, and lawyers fear that protesters could taint the jury's perspective on the March trial.
Posada's lawyer, Arturo Hernandez, urged the court to take steps to ensure that potential jurors are protected from protesters during the trial.
"We have information that there will be protesters during the jury selection procedures," he said in court. "What I have is an article from the AP about the release of the Cuban Five."
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is urging protesters to demonstrate in front of the federal courthouse the day Posada's trial begins in El Paso.
The Cuban Five are Cuban nationals who were employed at the Key West Naval Air Station when they were arrested on espionage and murder charges on Sept. 12, 1998 -- two years after two aircraft from the United States were shot down by Cuban military jets, killing four U.S. citizens.*
The Cuban Five are regarded as heroes by the Cuban government. Posada is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela, where officials suspect he planned the 1976 bombing.
Gloria La Riva, national coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, said the Cuban Five and Posada were inextricably linked.
The U.S. government should prosecute Posada for the bombing of the Cuban jetliner in 1976, or extradite him to face charges in Cuba or Venezuela, but has chosen not to because of the long relationship between Posada and the United States, she said.
"We're trying to show that the U.S. government has actually aided and abetted this terrorist organization against Cuba and people like Posada, while they have fully prosecuted people like the Cuban Five," she said.
*Editor's note: the facts in this paragraph are completely incorrect.