HAVANA – Cuba says it hopes the U.S. federal indictment of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles for lying to immigration authorities does not turn out to be a device to shield the Cuban-born Venezuelan citizen from prosecution for his alleged role in a deadly terrorist attack three decades ago.
“The Foreign Ministry hopes that this indictment of the terrorist Posada for immigration infractions does not turn into a smokescreen to extend his impunity for the serious crime of terrorism,” said an official statement released here Monday.
A U.S. federal grand jury in El Paso, Texas, brought seven charges against Posada this week, one for committing fraud in the naturalization process and six more for making false statements.
The formal indictment establishes that Posada, 78, tried to obtain U.S. citizenship with false statements in his application, and that in addition he gave false testimony under oath during his interview with officials of the Department of Homeland Security when he was detained in Miami in May 2005.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry hopes, however, that the accusation against Posada will not be used as “a pretext to continue ignoring the extradition” requested by the Venezuelan government on June 15, 2005.
Havana accused Posada of committing several bombing attacks against hotels on the Caribbean island in 1997, and with the death of 73 people in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner in the skies over Barbados. Venezuela asked the United States for his extradition in order to put him on trial for that attack.
“In the indictment of Jan. 11, the U.S. government makes no mention of terrorism. The U.S. government knows very well, and has all the proof, of the innumerable acts of terrorism committed by Posada,” said the statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
Posada escaped from custody in Venezuela in 1985 after having been acquitted of the airliner bombing, but while the acquittal was being challenged.
The Cuban plane had taken off from Caracas, hence the Andean nation’s claim of jurisdiction.
A U.S. federal judge ruled in 2005 that Posada cannot be sent back for trial to Venezuela, citing what he said was the danger that the defendant might be tortured.
The Cuban government, meanwhile, accuses Posada of a role in bombings at Havana hotels in the 1990s and of mounting a plot to assassinate Castro at a regional summit in Panama in 2000.
In 2004, a Panamanian court sentenced Posada to seven years in prison on lesser charges in connection with the plot against Castro, but the country’s outgoing-president, Mireya Moscoso, pardoned him and his accomplices in August of that year, prompting a temporary rupture in Cuban and Panamanian relation.
Posada, who headed Venezuela’s secret police for a time in the 1960s and ‘70s, disappeared soon after leaving prison and did not resurface until March 2005 in Miami.