Fidel bomb plotters go on trial in Panama

Campaign News | Monday, 15 March 2004

Posada Carriles pleads not guilty

PANAMA CITY, March 15: A Cuban-born anti-communist went on trial on March 15 accused of plotting to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000.

Luis Posada Carriles, 74, is being tried with five others of possessing explosives, threatening public security and plotting to violate the law, but not for attempted murder.

Posada, who left Cuba for Venezuela in the 1960s, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The accused, who include four other people of Cuban descent and a Panamanian, were detained in 2000 in a hotel in Panama City. They told the court they were innocent of the charges.

Prosecutors say Posada was planning to blow up Castro while the Cuban leader gave a speech at the University of Panama on Nov. 18, 2000, after the end of an Ibero-American summit.

They said Cuban intelligence agents uncovered the plot days before, alerting police who arrested Posada and his suspected accomplices before they were able to plant the bomb, which was found in a suitcase in a rented car and was

powerful enough to destroy a big building.

The prosecution did not charge the defendants with attempted assassination because no detonators were found in the area where the attack was supposed to be carried out.

"There is no evidence to condemn them and we hope they are declared innocent," Rogelio Cruz, the defense lawyer and former Panama attorney general, told reporters.

Posada claimes that Cuban security police framed

him by planting the bomb in his rental car while he was visiting Panama in order to help a high-ranking Cuban official defect from Castro's government.

Panama has refused extradition requests from Cuba and Venezuela, where Posada had lived since the 1960s.

Posada is also accused by Cuba of using Venezuela as a base to plan the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airline that killed 73 people. He escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 where he

was serving a sentence for involvement in the 1976 attack.

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