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Posada hires Miami criminal defense lawyer

by Jay Weaver
Feb. 13, 2007
Reprinted from The Miami Herald

Cuban exile militant being held in Texas on fraud charges has hired a Miami criminal defense lawyer who previously represented an exile colleague convicted of weapons charges last year in South Florida.

Luis Posada Carriles, charged in El Paso federal court with lying about how he sneaked into the United States, will be represented by attorney Arturo Hernandez.

''I'm looking forward to the challenge,'' said Hernandez, who will file his formal notice of appearance on Posada's behalf on Thursday.

Hernandez worked during the past year with a team of lawyers for Posada's benefactor, Santiago Alvarez, a wealthy Miami real estate developer who pleaded guilty in September along with his employee, Osvaldo Mitat, to conspiring to possess illegal weapons.

Hernandez said he has formally withdrawn as a lawyer for Alvarez.

Alvarez, 65, and Mitat, 64, are serving four years and three years, respectively, in federal prison. Alvarez recently surrendered a new cache of weapons -- belonging to himself and others in Miami's exile community -- in a bid to reduce sentences for himself and Mitat.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami is expected to file a motion to reduce their sentences -- possibly by one year.

Meanwhile, Alvarez and Mitat are being held in El Paso, where they are charged with contempt of court after refusing to testify before the grand jury in the Posada case.

Last week, Alvarez and Mitat pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.

During a brief hearing, a federal judge in El Paso ruled that Mitat could be released on a $20,000 bail that does not require any money down. The judge granted Alvarez, Mitat's employer, a $100,000 bail that required him to post a 10 percent cash deposit.

Magistrate Judge Norbert J. Garney said their bails could only become effective once they are released from those sentences.

Alvarez and Mitat refused to testify before the grand jury that investigated allegations that Posada lied in his bid to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2005-06.

Gary Weiser, an El Paso lawyer representing both men, declined to comment.

According to an indictment, Mitat and Alvarez were among a group of men who brought Posada from Mexico to the United States aboard a boat in 2005. Posada, a 78-year-old former CIA operative and U.S. Army soldier, said he paid an unidentified smuggler to sneak him across the Mexico-Texas border.

Separately, a federal grand jury in New Jersey is investigating Posada's alleged role as the mastermind of a series of tourist-site bombings in Havana in 1997. One Italian visitor died. No charges have been filed.

Posada, now held in isolation and jailed since May 2005, is also wanted by the governments of Venezuela and Cuba. They are seeking his extradition to Venezuela, where he stands accused of plotting the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner.



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