Alex Constantine - April 12, 2009
MIAMI (Reuters) - A federal grand jury has accused anti-Castro Cuban exile and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles of lying to U.S. authorities about his role in bomb attacks against tourist sites in Cuba in 1997.
In an indictment filed against Posada by the grand jury in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, he is accused of seeking to "obstruct and impede" the work of the U.S. government by lying during an immigration interview about his role in the attacks.
An Italian man was killed in the 1997 bomb blasts in Cuba in a case the indictment highlights as an "offense involving international terrorism."
The arraignment of Posada, who has a long history of violent opposition to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has been set for April 17 and jury selection for a trial is expected to begin on August 10.
Posada is wanted in both Cuba and Venezuela, where he is accused of masterminding the 1976 suitcase bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. That bombing occurred while Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan, lived in the oil-rich South American nation.
The latest indictment marks the first time since Posada arrived in the United States seeking asylum in March 2005 that he has been linked in a court proceeding to the Cuba bombings which killed Italian national Fabio di Celmo.
Posada's Miami-based attorney Arturo Hernandez could not be reached for immediate comment.
But a front-page story in Thursday's edition of Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma called the indictment "a surprising change of strategy" by U.S. prosecutors.
It came after "repeated requests for (Posada's) extradition by the government of Venezuela," the newspaper said, adding that it also preceded a regional Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago next week "where the topic will inevitably be mentioned."
Though it branded Posada "the most famous terrorist of the hemisphere," Granma noted that the U.S. charges against him had been limited to perjury and obstruction.
U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the Trinidad summit and calls for a normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties are expected to figure prominently there. Cuba had repeatedly accused Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush, of coddling Posada because of his CIA past and his support in the hard-line U.S. Cuban exile community where many regard him as a hero.
Wednesday's indictment does not charge Posada, 81, with planting the Cuba bombs but with lying to an immigration court about his alleged behind-the-scenes role in the attacks at hotels, bars and restaurants in the Havana area.
The Cuban government has claimed that one of two Salvadoran nationals convicted in Havana of the bombings, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, placed the bomb that killed the Italian and charged that Cruz Leon was a Posada accomplice.
The Texas grand jury said Posada lied to an immigration judge when asked if he had arranged for Cruz Leon to carry explosives into Cuba. "(The) defendant had been involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out said bombings in Cuba," the indictment read.
After entering the United States illegally in 2005, Posada was subsequently indicted on seven immigration fraud charges accusing of him of lying to immigration authorities, but a U.S. judge threw out those charges in May 2007.
Earlier, Posada was jailed in Panama for plotting to kill Castro during an Ibero-American summit in 2000, but was pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso in 2004.
He has lived in the Miami area with his wife since he was released from jail April 2007 on bail totaling $350,000.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Franks in Havana; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)
New charges link former CIA operative and U.S. Army soldier to 1997 bombings in Cuba
By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
EL PASO -- Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and U.S. Army soldier, was accused Wednesday of new federal charges related to 1997 bombings that targeted tourist areas in Cuba.
Posada, 81, was indicted on 11 counts, including perjury and obstruction of a federal proceeding.
The indictment is the first time U.S. authorities have accused Posada of being involved in the 1997 bombings. A hearing date for the new charges has not been set. ...