Panama prosecutor attacks accused Castro plotters
Campaign News | Wednesday, 17 March 2004
They should have no clemency, he says
March 17: Prosecutors said four Cuban émigrés accused of possessing explosives in an alleged plot to kill Fidel Castro planned to kill Cuba's leader in cold-blood, the Associated Press reports.
"There shouldn't be clemency for these people," said federal attorney Arquimedes Saez.
After being delayed three times, the trial got under way on Monday march 15th with the reading of statements from the accused, all of whom plead not guilty.
Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, Guillermo Novo, and Pedro Remon have been charged with conspiracy, possessing explosives and endangering the public's safety. An explosives conviction carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, while the lesser charges carry sentences of one to three and two to five years behind bars, respectively.
The émigrés were arrested after Castro denounced a plot to kill him during an Ibero-American summit that was held in Panama's capital in November 2000.
In previous rulings, courts found there wasn't enough evidence to try the defendants for attempted murder, which would carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Also charged in the case are two Panamanians, Cesar Matamoros and Posada Carriles' driver, Jose Hurtado.
The defendants have denied any involvement in a plot to kill Castro. But Panamanian authorities found explosives hidden outside Panama City and say they have evidence linking the explosives to Posada and the others.
The defendants have maintained they weren't in Panama to assassinate President Castro, but to help a Cuban general who supposedly had planned to seek political asylum in the country.
Prosecutor Saez argued that the exiles came to Panama to use the general, Eduardo Delgado, to unknowingly aid them in their plot to kill Castro.
The exiles accuse Castro of setting them up by planting a suitcase full of explosives recovered by police. Investigators said the explosives had been transported in a car rented by Posada Carriles.
Posada, a veteran of the U.S.-run Bay of Pigs operation and former CIA operative, was acquitted in a bombing trial in Venezuela but remained imprisoned until he escaped in 1985. He has admitted organizing several Cuban hotel bombings that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people in 1997.
Remon, 57, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 1986 in the March 1980 attempted murder of Cuba's former delegate to the United Nations and to an attempted bombing of the Cuban U.N. Mission in December 1979.
See: Who are these terrorists on tiral in Panama? By Jane Franklin on this site