"Working together for a free Cuba"




Judge: Posada to stay in U.S. for now.
By Oscar Corral

The U.S. government won't deport accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, an immigration judge has ruled.

Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles won't be deported to Cuba or Venezuela, where he is wanted for alleged terrorist crimes, a U.S. immigration judge decided -- but the judge left open the possibility that Posada could be sent to another country.

Posada's case has put Washington in the uncomfortable position of being accused of harboring an accused terrorist even as it wages a global war on terrorism. The judge's decision, meanwhile, is sure to aggravate already strained U.S. ties with Venezuela.

Posada will remain in indefinite detention in El Paso while his lawyers and supporters mount a legal and political campaign to free him.

Immigration judge William Abbott ruled that Posada will not be deported to Venezuela because Abbott believes Venezuela would likely torture him -- a claim Venezuela has vehemently denied.

In a ruling released Tuesday, Abbott granted Posada deferral from deportation under the Convention Against Torture act, which prohibits the United States from deporting someone to a country where they could be tortured.

Posada, who was detained in South Florida May 17, gained Venezuelan citizenship in the early 1970s when he was a top officer in the Venezuelan state police, DISIP. Venezuela is asking that he be extradited for trial on charges of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people.

Posada had been acquitted by a Venezuelan court of charges in the bombing but escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting a prosecution appeal.

Cuba accuses Posada of organizing bomb attacks on hotels and restaurants in Cuba in 1997 and conspiring to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000.

During Posada's immigration trial, which ended Monday, Abbott dismissed Cuba as a destination amid fears Posada could be executed there. Posada's backers argued that the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a close Castro ally and a frequent critic of the United States, could hand Posada over to Cuba if he were deported to Venezuela.

Chávez has threatened to ''reconsider our diplomatic ties'' with the United States if Washington didn't extradite Posada.

Posada's case seemingly fascinated Abbott.

In his decision on the case, the judge wrote that Posada was like ''a character from one of Robert Ludlum's espionage thrillers, with all the plot twists and turns Ludlum is famous for.'' Abbott issued the ruling just hours after the government rested its case against Posada Monday. ``The most heinous terrorist or mass murderer would qualify for deferral of removal if he or she could establish . . . the probability of torture in the future.''

Venezuela condemned the decision. Jose Pertierra, a lawyer who represents Venezuela on the Posada case, ripped prosecutors from the Department of Homeland Security for what he perceived to be undue leniency. He declined to comment on whether Venezuela would take any diplomatic action.

''DHS gave this decision to the judge on a silver platter,'' Pertierra said. ``We feel very deceived with the conduct of the prosecutors and DHS, which didn't litigate this case in good faith.''

But Posada is still not home free. In a written statement Tuesday, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security's office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the government is still deciding how to proceed with the Posada case.

''The judge's decision did not rule out the removal of Mr. Posada to another country,'' said ICE spokesman Dean Boyd. ``We are carefully reviewing the decision to determine how we will proceed in compliance with this ruling.''

Boyd declined to elaborate. The government has not publicly suggested alternative countries where it could send Posada, and several Latin American countries have indicated that they don't want him.

Posada's lawyer, Matthew Archambeault, said the government has expressed interest in sending Posada to a third country since Posada was detained in Miami in May but hasn't found a willing recipient.

Archambeault said after a standard 90-day waiting period, he planned to take the case for Posada's freedom to federal court.

''In the meantime, hopefully we can have a fruitful conversation with the government to get his release, perhaps under conditions they can impose,'' Archambeault said. ``We are pleased. This is what we envisioned as going to happen from the beginning.''

Miami developer Santiago Alvarez, Posada's friend and benefactor, said he will mount a lobbying campaign to free Posada.

''He is 77 years old, and he should be allowed to join his family in Miami,'' Alvarez said.

``We will keep fighting until he is given freedom.''

The judge hinged his decision on testimony from Posada and Venezuelan lawyer Joaquin Chaffardet, an old friend of Posada's who told Abbott that Venezuela would surely torture Posada. Abbott also took into account Venezuela's relationship with Cuba.

''The United States government is concerned that the growing economic and political ties between Cuba and Venezuela might persuade President Chávez to allow Cuban agents to come to Venezuela where the respondent could possibly suffer torture,'' Abbott wrote.

Abbott noted that DHS did not present a clear case for sending Posada to Venezuela.

Even after the judge stated that Posada and his lawyers had presented a strong case for him to be granted deferral, DHS did not call any witnesses against him.

Source: The Miami Herald
September 28, 2005