Victims Protest Cuban Militant's Release
by Will Weissert
April 11, 2007
Reprinted from AP
HAVANA - Tearful relatives of those killed in bombings blamed on Luis Posada Carriles lashed out at Washington on Wednesday, urging the Bush administration not to release the former U.S. operative from jail on bond.
"I'm outraged," said Iliana Alfonso, whose father was among those killed on a 1976 Cubana de Aviacion flight that exploded off Barbados. "In the United States they are talking about good terrorism and bad terrorism. To me, all terrorism is bad."
Posada, a Cuban-born former CIA operative and naturalized citizen of Venezuela, is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for masterminding the jetliner bombing, which killed 73 people - charges Posada denies. Cuba's government has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of protecting Posada by holding him on a far less serious charge.
The 79-year-old is being held in New Mexico on immigration charges, but could go free after U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone's refusal Friday to reverse her earlier ruling granting his request for bail.
Cardone ruled in El Paso, Texas, on Friday that Posada could be released on $250,000 bond from the Otero County jail, pending trial on charges of lying to immigration authorities in a bid to become a naturalized American citizen. She subsequently rejected U.S. prosecutors' motions to reconsider.
"If the government of the United States does not wish to try Posada Carriles as a terrorist, we demand it agree to grant the request for extradition made by the Bolivarian government of Venezuela," Alfonso read from a statement by a committee of relatives of those killed in the airline bombing.
"My family for the last 30 years has suffered much pain and sadness," Odalys Perez Rodriguez, daughter of Wilfredo Perez, the captain of the downed Cuban airliner, added during a teleconference from her home in Havana. "We are looking for justice."
Washington, DC.-based attorney Jose Pertierra, who represents the Venezuelan government, said in a teleconference with reporters that the U.S. is compelled to try Posada or return him under international treaties it has signed.
"The White House has many tools at its disposal to prevent this from happening," Pertierra said. "The judge's decision to release Posada Carriles on bond does not diminish the tools."
Pertierra said the Bush administration could still require the Department of Homeland Security to hold Posada until his May 11 immigration hearing.
Under an international treaty signed a year before the airliner bombing, the U.S. agreed to charge anyone who destroys or tries to destroy an airliner in flight or to extradite that person. The U.S. signed a similar, retroactive convention related to terrorist bombings in 1998.
Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for ICE, said his agency was aware of the judge's decision and that "appropriate action" would be taken, though he declined to elaborate.
Convalescing leader Fidel Castro echoed those sentiments in a signed statement.
Castro, who has not been seen in public for more than eight months, accused the U.S. government in his letter of having decided to liberate "the monster beforehand."
Before he can be released, Posada's family members in Miami must also post a $100,000 bond, said Arturo V. Hernandez, Posada's lawyer. And his wife, daughter and son must sign custodianship affidavits committing to supervise Posada upon his release, Hernandez said.
Cuba also accuses Posada Carriles of plotting a series of bombings at several Havana hotels in 1997, including one that killed 32-year-old Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo.
With sad eyes partially obscured by thick bifocals, and a voice that wavered and cracked, Fabio's father, Giustino, said in an interview that "every time I hear the name of Posada Carriles my personality changes completely."
"Before me, I see blood, blood and more blood," said the Italian national, who moved to Havana after his son's death.
Like Alfonso, Di Celmo worried releasing Posada on bond could be risky, saying "a person like that, who is still protected by the United States government, could flee."
Posada is a longtime foe of Castro, who publicly accused him at a 2000 presidential summit in Panama of plotting to assassinate him. Posada was soon afterward arrested in Panama and convicted on lesser charges before walking free in 2004, after being pardoned by Panama's president at the time, Mireya Moscoso.
Posada was arrested in Venezuela a few days after the 1976 jetliner bombing, but escaped from prison in 1985 before a civilian trial in the case was completed.
He was detained in Florida in May 2005 for entering the United States illegally. A U.S. immigration judge ruled that he could not be sent to Cuba or Venezuela, citing fears that he would be tortured.
Posada trained with the CIA for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and served in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s.
Associated Press Writer Laura Wides-Munoz contributed to this report from Miami.