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Judge hands jailed Posada a legal victory, orders release

by Alfoso Chardyl
Apr. 7, 2007
Reprinted from The Miami Herald

Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles must be released on bond and allowed to live with his family under house arrest in Miami while awaiting trial for allegedly lying to immigration authorities, a federal judge ordered Friday.

Posada was not freed because the federal government quickly filed a motion asking the judge for a seven-day delay to review the ''adequacy'' of her release conditions -- and to decide whether to appeal. It was also possible Posada could be taken into custody by immigration officials as soon as he posts bond.

Nevertheless, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso was the first major legal victory for the former CIA operative since immigration agents in May 2005 detained him in Miami-Dade County, charged him with illegally being in the country and flew him to an immigration detention facility in El Paso.

''The conventional wisdom was that we would not get bond,'' said Arturo Hernandez, Posada's Miami-based criminal defense attorney. ''But this judge, to her credit, justly considered the facts and gave us a reasonable bond.''

In the nine-page ruling, Cardone noted that even if Posada were the daring covert operative of legend, accused of masterminding tourist site bombings in Havana that killed an Italian in 1997 -- and even if he did escape from a prison in Venezuela once in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 -- all that was in the past. She also noted that the criminal charges against Posada, now 79 and ''frail,'' did not involve acts of violence.


Posada, the judge wrote, ''has spent his life opposing Fidel Castro. As a result, he has allegedly been involved in and/or associated with some of the most infamous events of the 20th century . . . the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Iran-Contra Affair, the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455, the tourist bombings of 1997 in Havana, and even -- according to some conspiracy theorists -- the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.''

But all those things, she added, have no bearing on Posada's current circumstances.

''He is now older and more frail than he was when those events allegedly occurred,'' she wrote. ''He has ample ties to the community, as evidenced by the thousands of supporters who have signed petitions on his behalf and volunteered their personal resources to aid in his defense.''

Hernandez said he had not relayed the news to Posada and doubts the exile militant even knows about the judge's ruling because he is being held in conditions of near isolation in a small cell in a county jail in New Mexico near the Texas border.

''But if he knows, he'll be walking three feet above the prison floor,'' Hernandez said.

Conditions were better when Posada was in immigration detention, Hernandez said, because he had access to the phone and could indulge in his passion of painting Cuban landscapes. At a court hearing in El Paso Wednesday, Hernandez said, Posada appeared to have lost 30 pounds and seemed subdued but hopeful.

Posada's supporters in Miami cheered the judge's ruling.


''It's about time they realize that Posada Carriles has always been a man close to the United States, who has rendered services in the war against terrorists and communists,'' said Miguel Saavedra, president of Vigilia Mambisa.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Washington did not rule out detaining Posada -- even if he's released on bond.

''We'll be evaluating the judge's decision and will take the appropriate action,'' said Marc Raimondi, an agency spokesman in Washington.

After he was detained, immigration authorities charged Posada with having abandoned his rights as a permanent U.S. resident and with being in the country without having been admitted or paroled.

Those charges have not been withdrawn, and an immigration judge in September 2005 ordered Posada deported to any country willing to take him -- though he prohibited removal to Cuba or Venezuela.

Posada was transferred from immigration detention to the custody of federal prison authorities when a grand jury in January indicted him for allegedly lying about whether he entered the country by boat or by land.

If the judge's ruling stands, Posada can post $350,000 in bond and then live with his wife at her home in Miami under 24-hour house confinement, leaving only for doctors' appointments or to meet with his attorney. Posada also would be subject to electronic monitoring and not be allowed to contact co-defendants or witnesses.

His trial is set for May 11, and he faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Cuban jet bombing suspect ordered free on bail in U.S.

Venezuela and Cuba want Luis Posada Carriles in a 1976 plane bombing that killed 73. But in this country, the former CIA operative is charged with lying to immigration officials.

by Carol J. Williams
Apr. 7, 2007
Reprinted from Los Angeles Times

MIAMI — A federal judge Friday ordered Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles freed from a New Mexico jail, ruling he be allowed to live under electronic surveillance with his family in Miami while awaiting trial May 11 on charges of lying to immigration authorities.

The move to free the 79-year-old, who is suspected of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976 and bombing Havana hotels in the late 1990s, sparked outrage in Cuba. The Communist Party newspaper Granma posted the news on its website under a headline that read: "Blackmail Gets Results."

Posada has never been charged in U.S. courts in connection with those terrorist acts, his critics contend, because he likely threatened to disclose other violence committed during his decades of covert work with the CIA.

A Bay of Pigs veteran who once served time in Panama for plotting to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Posada has become a political conundrum for the Bush administration. The president and his Republican allies have benefited from the support of influential Cuban exiles in Miami, many of whom view Posada as a patriotic freedom fighter.

Posada entered the United States illegally in March 2005, about eight months after he and three other Florida-based Cuban militants were pardoned on illegal weapons and conspiracy charges by outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso.

The move came four years into Posada's eight-year sentence, and was seen as a favor to Bush, whose reelection in November 2004 was riding on the continued backing of Miami Cubans.

The other three men, all U.S. citizens, arrived here to a hero's welcome while Posada — Cuban-born and Venezuela-naturalized — made his way home clandestinely. Posada held a Miami news conference, fueling foreign outcry that the U.S. government was providing refuge for a terrorist. He was arrested in May 2005. Cuba and Venezuela want Posada extradited to stand trial for the Cubana de Aviacion bombing that killed all 73 on board the Caracas to Havana flight.

Posada escaped from prison in Venezuela in 1985 while he awaited a third trial in the jetliner bombing off Barbados. He was acquitted twice.

After his 2005 arrest, Posada first was held in an immigration lockup in El Paso — where he told officials he had made his way to the United States with the help of a smuggler via Mexico and Texas.

Cuban media, however, reported that Posada actually was picked up from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula by a shrimp boat owned by Cuban American developer Santiago Alvarez and brought to a Gulf Coast marina. Alvarez is in jail following a guilty plea on weapons violations charges.

The El Paso immigration court ordered Posada deported in September 2005, but U.S. authorities were unable to persuade any of the seven allied countries contacted to accept him. A federal judge ruled that he couldn't be extradited to Cuba or Venezuela because of the possibility he would be tortured or abused in the custody of those governments.

Last fall, Posada's Miami lawyer, Eduardo Soto, filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking his release. Another Texas judge ordered the federal government to charge Posada with a crime by Feb. 1 or release him.

Then a federal grand jury in January indicted Posada on immigration violations and transferred him to a prison in Otero County, N.M. — voiding the deadline by placing him in custody pending a criminal proceeding.

On Friday, shortly before the court closed for Easter weekend, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso ordered Posada released. She did not address a government request to keep him jailed pending an appeal.

Posada's El Paso attorney, Felipe D.J. Millan, could not be reached for comment. But he told the Associated Press it was unlikely Posada would be released over the holiday weekend.

"He deserves to go home and live in peace and enjoy his family," Millan said. "Obviously we'll do whatever we need to do to post bond. We'll try to get him [out] as soon as possible."

Cardone's nine-page ruling required Posada to post a $250,000 bond, and mandated that his wife and two adult children put up $100,000 bond to ensure their compliance with other conditions of his release, including 24-hour home confinement and wearing an electronic monitoring device.


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