Judge: Posada to stay in U.S.
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
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
Cuba accuses Posada of organizing bomb attacks on hotels and restaurants
in Cuba in 1997 and conspiring to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama in
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
''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
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.
The Miami Herald
September 28, 2005