Top Pananamanian lawyer says US was behind terrorists' release

Campaign News | Friday, 3 September 2004

Dr. Julio Yao:

Dr. Julio Yao, Professor of Law and International Law at the University of Panama, is coordinator of the Panamanian Peace and Justice Service, which is actively looking for political and legal action to be taken against the former president, Mireya Moscoso for her pardon of the four terrorists serving time in prison for their failed attempt on the life of Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000.

Bernie Dwyer of Radio Havana Cuba, called Dr. Yao in Panama to find out the reaction in Panama to the former president's action and the consequences for the future for international justice.

Dr. Yao said that as far as he is concerned the so-called pardon was completely concocted by the intelligence and security apparatus of the United States and pointed out that this says a lot about the true objective and the meaning of the fight and struggle against terrorism.

[Bernie Dwyer]: What has been the reaction in Panama to the action taken by former president Mireya Moscoso to pardon the four convicted terrorists, who have now left Panama?

[Dr. Julio Yao]: Mireya Moscoso took a decision that is completely illegal from the point of view of our constitution and also from the point of view of international treaties regarding terrorism and, of course, regarding extradition and other related matters.

The action she took has been rejected massively here in Panama because no one agrees with such a decision. It has been a completely adversarial and negative decision and I may add, a fatal decision in so far as international justice and the struggle against terrorism is concerned.

We believe that this has been an arrangement with the US and /or the Cuban right-wingers in Miami and a covert operation was implemented in order to obtain this objective. We know up to yesterday, that Posada Carriles is supposed to be out of Honduras and somewhere in the Bahamas. But the point is that President Maduro of Honduras was not sincere when he said, in Honduras and in Panama that if Posada Carriles was found, he would be deported to Panama or thrown in jail. That of course was the correct legal answer.

However, we know and they know, that Posada Carriles was there all the time, protected by some Cuban Americans or perhaps hidden or protected in a US military base or post or site. From there he was sent somewhere else. He could be anywhere right now. The legal point is that wherever he is, Panama has the legal right to bring him back because implicitly we have said, and the new president has said that this is an illegal action. Of course there is no probability that he could be sent back if he is in Honduras and of course, the other three who are in the United States have less chance to be sent back to Panama.

So what it all amounts to is that there is a double discourse and a double standard as far as terrorism is concerned from the point of view of the United States. They were sent to the US on a Thursday and the next day, George W Bush was there in a Miami stadium addressing himself to the Cuba American right wing in Miami. So I think this was completely concocted by the intelligence and security apparatus of the United States. This says a lot about the true objective and the meaning of the fight and struggle against terrorism.

[BD]: Legally speaking, these four men were being tried for being in possession of explosives. There wasn't any action taken or lives lost. What would be your reply to people who could say that they served a few years and deserved their pardon on the humanitarian grounds on which it was granted?

[JY]: My reply to that would be that the International Treaties in general and also in particular, against terrorist acts prevail over whatever the internal law of any country says. What all the international treaties, (at least thirteen of them that have been violated massively by these guys, Posada Carrlies and his group), say that the terrorists should receive the maximum penalty contemplated in the internal laws of the country that gets hold of them. In other words, they should receive the most severe sanction contemplated under internal law.

The other point that is very clear to me is that those treaties also state very clearly that the mere attempt, the mere planning, the mere fact that we can prove that they drew maps and sketches and took other detailed measures to execute the bombing is in itself an act of terrorism. Therefore it is not necessary for the bomb to explode and kill people. In other words the phase of planning itself is a crime of terrorism. It doesn't matter whether the respective country has adapted its laws: what the international law says is that in the absence of an adaptation of the internal law to the international treaty, the terms of the international treaty should prevail and should be taken as the applicable law.

[BD]: If there are so many conventions against terrorism, surely action can be taken against the three pardoned terrorists in the United States?

[JY]: In the states they have not taken any action against these three terrorists and I doubt if the government will take an initiative in that regard. I believe that the local civil and human rights groups should put a lot of pressure on their government to bring these guys before to the tribunals. Because otherwise, as we know the Bush administration does not respect international law and they expressly said so at the time of the 9.11 terrorists attacks. So in that sense I am very pessimistic about a government initiative. I would rather rely on the pressure from different organizations dealing with political, civil and constitutional rights.

[BD]: Is it possible for a third country to take a legal action against the United States in this situation?

[JY]: It is. One needs to find a country who is maybe interested in taking that initiative and secondly that country should have sufficient evidence of the US government's involvement in this action. Cuba, for instance or any country for that matter, and that includes Venezuela and even Panama, can ask for a consultative opinion from the International Court of Justice whether the action taken by Mireya Moscoso was a violation of international law and what the implications of such a violation are.

And whatever the international court says that is something which must be taken into consideration very seriously by the government of whatever country these terrorists are: in this case the United States. At this point the government of Panama is contacting the governments of Cuba and Venezuela in order to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and normalize relations with Venezuela. That is a very clear objective that the new President Torrijos stated during his speech the day before yesterday.

[BD] Do you think there will be any internal Panamanian legal reckoning against Mireya Moscoso for her action?

[JY]: Torrijos said in his inauguration speech the government will investigate all the illegal acts of the previous government but only relating to the illegal use of funds by Moscoso's government because there are many cases of scandalous acts of corruption in this regard. Some sectors are putting pressure on the government to take some political and legal action against Mireya Moscoso for her presidential pardon but there is no answer from the Panamanian government so far.

[BD]: And when you say presidential pardon, did she literally pardon them for their actions or is she giving them their freedom?

YAO: Both things. She has given them their freedom and she is pardoning them for their actions. Of course, the problem is, technically speaking, the crimes committed by these people were not finally defined because the judicial process was not terminated as an appeal was still pending. The thing was not finally decided. Therefore the whole thing is a mess and a sea of illegalities which surrounds these presidential pardons. I don't think it was a case of humanitarianism. I think it was a conscious political act, which reflected the subservience of Mireya Moscoso's government to the United States interests.

[BD]: Is that legal process against these men effectively finished? If they came back to Panama, could they be picked up and held until the political process has properly concluded?

[JY]: Supposing they were sent back to Panama, of course they would be thrown in jail. The Supreme Court of Justice would have to say what Mireya Moscoso did was illegal and this is precisely what my group, Peace and Justice Service, Panama, is trying to push, to bring to the Supreme Court of Justice that she violated the constitution and we are trying to work on that this week.

But very definitely, if they are sent back to Panama they will be thrown in jail. In the prevailing atmosphere in Panama they will be sentenced for clearly terrorist acts in addition to evading our jails. Now the thing is, of course, I don't see at this point the possibility of any government sending them back to Panama and definitely not in the case of the United States.

New Panama president promises to mend ties with Cuba

PANAMA CITY, Sept. 1 (Xinhuanet) - Panama's new President Martin Torrijos pledged on Wednesday to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba and normalize relations with Venezuela.

Torrijos said in his inauguration speech that the breaking of relations with Cuba and the distancing with Venezuela had undermined the image of Panama.

"We observe with astonishment how the government decided to grant pardon to four individuals convicted by tribunals and whose sentence was pending an appeal. This regrettable pardon closed a legal process and covered up the offenders with impunity," said the new president.

Torrijos reiterated that he will take "the necessary steps to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba and normalize relations withVenezuela."

Cuba severed diplomatic ties with Panama last week when Torrijos' predecessor Mireya Moscoso pardoned four men jailed for plotting to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2000.

Venezuela withdrew its ambassador to Panama after Moscoso said the life of a US convict of Cuban origin would be in danger if he was sent to Venezuela or Cuba.

Posada Carriles said to be in Honduras

US is implicated in the scandal

Havana August 31: EVERYTHING would seem to indicate that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has taken refuge in Honduras, his traditional lair along with El Salvador.

However, although the national authorities have confirmed that he is being sought, there are no details on his presence and far less on his detention, as was announced in the Cuban Television Roundtable programme.

Meanwhile the United States is keeping quiet on the pardon signed by President Mireyas Moscoso, who released the notorious killer and three of his accomplices serving a prison term for an attempt to assassinate President Fidel Castro during an event at the University of Panama in 2000.

It was stated on the programme that Ricardo Maduro, the Honduran president, was forced to acknowledge that Posada had entered the country and that he is a terrorist “who has the support of powerful people with international influence.”

Statements condemning the shameful pardon signed by the Panamanian president have continued.

The Panamanian people never imagined that one of their governors would bend to U.S. directives to such a degree, affirmed Panamanian lawyer Julio Berrios, repudiating the pardon allowing the release of the four anti-Cuban terrorists.

Speaking on the Roundtable programme, Berrios, a professor of Law at the University of Panama, referred to a statement left by Moscoso on the answer-phone of a former ambassador to her country and quoted on U.S. television, in which she says:

“Ambassador, good morning, this is the president to inform you that the four Cubans were pardoned last night and have already left the country. Three are headed for Miami and the other to an unknown destination. Good bye, and all the best.”

The president has acknowledged that she made that call.

Other Panamanian figures likewise condemned the pardon of the four terrorists of Cuban origin. Former president Jorge Illueca described it as a blow to Latin American integration. This act, he added, affects the deepest sentiments of Pan-Americanism which, in addition to the rupture of diplomatic relations with Cuba, has already prompted the withdrawal of the Venezuelan ambassador and Hugo Chávez’ absence from the investiture of the incoming president.

Gassán Salama, the former governor of the province of Colón, who resigned in protest over the pardon, qualified it as a world disgrace, an act that demonstrated Moscoso’s lack of interest in combating terrorism.

On the other hand, a statement signed by some 40 legislators from various tendencies comprising the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), rejected Moscoso’s decision and calls on ”the peoples of the civilized world to condemn this decision in favor of those terrorists who are endangering stability and peace.”

In Bogotá, more than 100 participants in the Voices of the World Congress for Peace rejected the humiliating decision of the Panamanian leader, which exposes a high degree of opportunism and hypocrisy to gratify Washington’s anti-Cuba policy.

The Mexican Communist Party affirms that by releasing the four terrorists, Moscoso has become an accomplice of those who in 1976 placed the bomb aboard the Cubana passenger plane that cost the lives of 73 people, and those who made an attempt on the life of President Fidel Castro in particular at the Ibero-American Summit.

In the name of what humanitarianism?

By Simon Wollers of Radio Havana Cuba

The outgoing president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, on Thursday August 26, pardoned four men serving prison sentences in Panama for endangering public safety by possessing a large amount of explosives. She did so for what she said were “humanitarian reasons.” The explosives had been designed to kill visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000. The release of the terrorists has caused consternation in Cuba, Venezuela (where one of the men is wanted) and Panama with Havana immediately severing diplomatic relations and Venezuela recalling its ambassador.

Cubana flight 455 crashed into the sea off the island of Barbados in October of 1976 after a bomb exploded on board. All 73 passengers and crew died. One of the men found guilty of planning and executing the sabotage was Luis Posada Carriles who escaped from a Venezuelan prison where he was serving time for the act of terrorism. After years of walking the streets of Miami and San Salvador a free man, he turned up again in Panama in 2000 where he and three Cuban Americans attempted to kill Fidel Castro along with many hundreds of students and workers attending a welcome for the Cuban leader. Now they have been released after serving only 4 years of a 7-8 year sentence. Iraida Malberti’s husband was one of those killed on board Cubana Flight 455. She says she cannot understand the release of these terrorists:

“My husband, who was flying in the plane, was killed by Posada Carriles. These men are confessed killers, of that there is no doubt. And now they’re pardoned under this false concept of humanitarianism. In the name of what humanitarianism does she speak, this woman?”

Dr Julio Yao is a professor of International Law at the University of Panama and was very explicit about the illegal nature of the Panamanian president’s act:

“The President of Panama has violated the Constitution because the political constitution of Panama only authorizes a pardon in cases of political crimes and terrorism is not a political crime. She also violated international law because she did not comply with her obligations and treaties signed by Panama regarding terrorism. I personally believe that the elections in November are not indifferent to this fact.”

Indeed, says former US Attorney General Ramsey Clarke, the timing of this event coincided with an electoral campaign visit of US President George Bush to Miami and the beginning of the Republican National Convention in New York:

“This pardon by President Mireya Moscoso has to be seen as the most recent in a long line of terrorist acts against the government and the people of Cuba. It is not insignificant that this happens on the eve of the Republican Convention. That the United States desired this and caused it to happen would be hard to deny and it is sad to see in the midst of President Bush’s war on terrorism, he continues the US war on terrorism against the sovereignty and independence of the people of Cuba.”

Cubans are astounded at what they call the treachery, lies and support of terrorism by Panama’s president. Stephen Fay of Radio Havana Cuba explains that the 1976 bombing of the Cubana flight has never been forgotten:

“I think that caused such an incredible impact in the Cuban psyche - Posada Carriles was involved in that sabotage attack - so now to see him released after serving four years of a pitifully short eight year sentence, perhaps it would have been easier to cope with if he’d escaped. But he’s been pardoned and released by the president of a nation. There’s a feeling of disbelief and disgust.”

Mireya Moscoso said she released the four men on what she termed as “humanitarian” grounds because she feared they would face the death penalty if a succeeding Panamanian government extradited them to Cuba or to Venezuela which specifically claims Posada Carriles. Her comment elicited anger in both countries with Caracas promptly recalling its ambassador after Cuba had severed diplomatic relations with Panama.

Havana has previously publicly guaranteed the four terrorists would not face the death penalty and Venezuela doesn’t even have the death penalty on its books. Cuba pointed out that Moscoso was quick to triumphantly call a US official with the news three of the four were on their way back to a hero’s welcome in Miami. The fourth, Luis Posada Carriles, once again free, flew to an unknown destination.

Most Cubans believe it will not be the last they hear of him.

Venezuela withdraws ambassador , Cuba breaks diplomatic relations

Caracas, August 28: Venezuela has recalled its ambassador to Panama to protest comments by the outgoing Panamanian president regarding her reasons for pardoning four men convicted in a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.

President Mireya Moscoso said she feared the men could be executed if they were extradited to Venezuela or Cuba by her successor.

The latest diplomatic crisis follows a presidential pardon for four Cubans convicted of plotting to kill President Fidel Castro during an inter-American summit in 2000.

President Moscoso said she released the four Cubans for "humanitarian reasons", because she feared the new administration, headed by Martin Torrijos, son of the late General Omar Torrijos, a close friend of Mr. Castro, would extradite them to Venezuela or Cuba, where she said they could be executed.

Flavio Granados, Venezuela's ambassador to Panama said that he was ordered home because Mrs. Moscoso?s statement was a "serious and false accusation" against his country. He said there is no death penalty in Venezuela, even "for terrorists that have been pardoned."

Mr. Granados also said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would not participate in the swearing in ceremonies for President-elect Martin Torrijos, which are scheduled for September first.

Luis Posada Carriles who is considered the ring-leader of the anti-Castro group escaped from a Venezuelan jail, after being blamed for the destruction of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 passengers in 1976.

Following the presidential pardon, the Cuban government severed diplomatic relations with Panama, and accused President Moscoso and her government of caving in to pressure from Cuban exiles in the United States.

Havana, August 26 - As of 16:15 today, Thursday August 26, 2004, the government of Cuba officially broke off diplomatic relations with the Republic of Panama following an early morning release of four terrorists who attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro in 2000.

The President of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, a week away from leaving office, pardoned the four men who had been tried and convicted in Panama for crimes relating to the assassination attempt.

The men, Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo Sampol have all committed previous crimes of terrorism against Cuba including the bombing of a Cubana airliner and the assassination of Cuban officials and diplomats.

A Cuban government statement today condemned the evident protection of terrorists responsible for decades of crimes against the people of Cuba. It said that the pardon, aside from being "repugnant", was not even legal under Panamanian law. A president can only pardon or reduce the sentence of a political prisoner after the sentence is final. Yet Moscoso pardoned four men guilty of terrorism prior to the completion of an appeals process. This means that she considers assassination a political crime, said the statement. Her action was therefore in flagrant disrespect for her own country's laws.

Cuba's ambassador to Panama, Carlos Zamora, who was expelled from Panama last night hours before Moscoso released the terrorists from prison, appeared on Cuban TV's Round Table tonight. Saying that the treachery was the worst in the entire history between both nations, Zamora said he was sure the people of Panama would share the indignation of the people of Cuba because of the stigma their president's decision will bring upon them.

Reaction in Panama has included the resignation of a provincial governor in protest as well as demonstrations and a statement by Dr Julio Yao, professor of international law and international relations at the University of Panama, who said today that the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Panama in which he pressured Mireya Moscoso to release the terrorists was no less than interference in Panama's internal affairs.

Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso Pardons Convicted Terrorists

Panama City, August 26 (RHC)-- Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso has pardoned four convicted terrorists, as expected -- responding to pressure from Washington and ultra-rightwing Cuban-Americans in Miami.

The terrorists -- Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo Sampol -- reportedly left Panama aboard a private jet even before the announcement was made Thursday morning by presidential spokesman, Mario Rognoni.

According to Prensa Latina News Agency, the four were released from El Renacer Prison, located on the outskirts of the Panama Canal, during the early morning hours in a heavy security operation and taken to the Panamanian capital's Tocumen Airport. Initial reports say the terrorists were bound for Miami, but those reports are unconfirmed.

Cuba Warns Central American Nations Not to Protect Terrorists

Havana, August 26 (RHC)-- Cuba has warned Central American nations not to protect four convicted terrorists pardoned by Panama. The Cuban Foreign Ministry released a statement -- published on the front-page of Thursday morning's edition of the daily Granma -- pointing out that representatives of ultra-rightwing Cuban-Americans in Florida are negotiating with Central American countries to grant the terrorists immunity.

The Foreign Ministry statement recalled how some Central American countries had become safe havens for terrorist operations for many years -- allowing Luis Posada Carriles and his accomplices to act with total impunity. The terrorists have also been hosted in the United States, where they were protected, financed and given aid in plotting their terrorist schemes.

According to this morning's statement, the sabotage bombing of Havana hotels in 1997 was planned in those Central American countries and carried out by mercenaries who were captured in Cuba and are now imprisoned on the island.

Should any country give the terrorists refuge, they would be considered accomplices to their crimes -- in violation of all legal and ethical norms and their commitments with international agreements to fight terrorism.

Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo Sampol were detained in November 2000 and charged with plotting to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American Summit taking place in Panama City. They were convicted in April this year and their sentences were still under appeal before they were released early Thursday morning.

The administration of outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso granted the pardons to the four terrorists on "humanitarian grounds."

Cuban Ambassador to Panama Returns Home to Havana

Havana, August 26 (RHC)-- Cuba's ambassador to Panama, Carlos Zamora, returned home Wednesday night after President Mireya Moscoso ordered him to leave Panama City. Upon his arrival at José Marti International Airport, Zamora was welcomed by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and other top Cuban officials.

Denouncing the possibility that four convicted terrorists would be pardoned by the current Panamanian administration, Carlos Zamora spoke with reporters at the airport just hours before the terrorists were actually released by Panama. He told journalists that such an action is unacceptable to the Cuban people, who have lost more than 3000 people to terrorist attacks over the past 40 years.

The Cuban diplomat recalled that Luis Posada Carriles and his accomplices are responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, including the sabotage bombing of a Cubana airliner in October 1976, killing all 73 people aboard; the murder of a Cuban diplomat at the United Nations in New York City in 1980; and the car-bomb which killed former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington, DC in September 1976.

Havana's ambassador to Panama City said that during his diplomatic mission, he strictly respected all principles regulating relations between both nations. He said that Panamanian authorities do not have any evidence of Cuba's interference into the internal affairs of that country -- and that "any accusation is a blatant manipulation of reality and an attempt to hide real motives devoid of ethics and principles."

Panamanians Take the Streets to Protest Pardon of Terrorists

Panama City, August 26 (RHC)-- Workers and university students marched through the streets of Panama City on Wednesday, after learning of a possible pardon granted to four terrorists being held in their country. The march took place before the announcement was made on Thursday that the terrorists had indeed been released from prison.

According to news reports from the Panamanian capital, at the end of the march, representatives of several popular organizations delivered a letter addressed to President Mireya Moscoso on behalf of prosecutors at the recent trial of the terrorists.

The Panamanian president ordered her country's ambassador in Havana to return to Panama City and demanded that Carlos Zamora, Havana's ambassador to Panama, leave the country. Cuba has clearly stated that when the four terrorists are pardoned, diplomatic relations between the two countries would be automatically broken.

Cuba threatens to break off diplomatic relations with Panama

HAVANA, Aug. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- The Cuban government reiterated Wednesday that if Panama gives a pardon to four anti-Castro activists, Cuba will sever diplomatic ties with that country, according to the official daily Granma.

The newspaper quoted a newsletter released by the Cuban government as saying that Cuba will cut off foreign relations withPanama if Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardons the anti-Castro activists. Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez, Pedro Remon and Guillermo Novo Sampol had been accused by the Panamanianjustice of attempting to murder Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The newsletter criticized Panama for not carefully analyzing and understanding the communique issued by the Cuban government onAug. 22 before making the decision to withdraw its ambassador to Cuba and request Cuban ambassador to leave Panama.

On Aug. 22, Cuba said in a statement that according to information from Panama and the United States, Moscoso is ready torelease the four activists before leaving off her post.

The statement said, "We want to warn that, if these monstrous criminals are pardoned, diplomatic relations between the republicsof Cuba and Panama will automatically be broken."

In November 2000, the four Cuban exiles were arrested for allegedly having planned to assassinate Castro at a 2000 summit ofLatin American and Iberian leaders in Panama.

A Panamanian tribunal sentenced Luis Posada and Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo to eight years in prison and Guillermo Novo Sampol and Pedro Remon seven years in prison for endangering public safety and forging documents, but not for the presumed assassination attempt against Castro.

Moscoso denied Monday that the four Cubans were included in anylist of prisoners to be pardoned before she hands over the presidency to Martin Torrijos on Sept. 1.

"I have not made any decisions to pardon Panamanians or foreigners. But if I do, I will announce it," she said. Enditem

24 August 2004


From the US National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

Dear friends of Cuba:

Before her term ends at the end of August, Panama's president, Mireya Moscoso, has plans to pardon the four notorious anti-Cuba terrorists who were arrested November 2000 in

Panama City for attempting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. Their terrorist plans could also have killed hundreds of Panamanian people who were going to be part of the audience when President Castro was set to speak at a public event.

Through legal maneuvers and U.S. government pressure, the charges, convictions and sentences of Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo

Sampol, were extremely light, given the deadly nature of their plans, and their arsenal of weapons and explosives, including 70 pounds of C-4 explosives. For their plans of assassination and mass murder, they were sentenced to only four to eight years in prison, minus time served.

Now, they may very well be released by Monday, August 30, if Moscoso follows through on her intent to pardon them.

For Moscoso to release these four terrorists, who have been proven guilty before of murder and other terrorist acts against Cuban citizens and civilians of other countries, is more than an outrage. It gives a total green light of impunity to terrorists who have pledged to carry out more terrorist acts against Cuba. Their release puts innocent people from any country in danger.

Posada Carriles has bragged of his continuing terrorist plots and his role in organizing bombings in Havana hotels in the

1990s. The New York Times interviewed Posada (July 12, 1998). He admitted responsibility for masterminding a bombing i

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this