Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Posada Pleads Not Guilty

Here is an update on anti-Castro figure Luis Posada Carriles, whom the last time we looked was the beneficiary of the disposal of crucial FBI and CIA files that had been in the custody of federal investigators in South Florida.

An anti-Fidel Castro militant accused of bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976 pleaded not guilty on Monday to U.S. immigration charges, the latest round in a long fight by the U.S. government to keep him in jail.

Luis Posada Carriles, 78, who says he has renounced violence in the fight against Castro and only wants to join his family in Miami, Florida, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Norbert Garney in El Paso shackled at his wrists and feet.

The shackles were removed for him to enter a not-guilty plea to a seven-count indictment issued early this month alleging he lied to U.S. immigration officials about illegally entering the United States in March 2005. He has been detained since May 2005.

If convicted on all charges, he could be sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The charges are the latest effort to hold Posada without declaring him a terrorist. Cuba and Venezuela have demanded Posada's extradition in the Cubana Airlines bombing that killed 73 people, including teenage members of Cuba's national fencing team returning from a tournament in Venezuela.

His case has been embarrassing for the U.S. government, which is engaged in a war on terror, because Posada was once in the pay of the CIA. Politically powerful Cuban-Americans see Posada as a hero but others say he is a terrorist.

The U.S. government has refused to send him to Cuba or Venezuela on grounds he might be tortured or killed but also has declined to admit him. The United States has been unable to find another country willing to accept him.

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