New York Daily News: Terrorist's refuge in the US

Campaign News | Monday, 5 September 2005

Posada case reveals hypocrisy of so-called 'war on terror'

New York, 4 Sept: He is a well-known international terrorist but he can be sure that he will never be extradited to Venezuela, which wants to judge him for his crimes.

The official reason is bound to be, as Luis Posada Carriles' lawyers have argued, that he could be tortured if sent to the South American country to answer for his crimes.

And even though the case against the Cuban-born Posada Carriles is as clear as water, it drags on before an Immigration Court that keeps postponing its resolution.

Last Wednesday, during an immigration hearing, Posada Carriles withdrew his request for U.S. asylum because, as Matthew Archambeault, one of his lawyers, said, he did not want to embarrass Washington by answering questions about "areas sensitive to the U.S. government."

The truth, though, is that it would be impossible for the U.S. to justify granting asylum to a man with such a long list of international crimes.

A former CIA operative and lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Posada Carriles, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, is the alleged mastermind of the deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner over Barbados in 1976 that killed 73 people.

He was imprisoned for this crime in Venezuela, where he had been a high-ranking government security officer. In 1985, he managed to escape and, until his arrival in Miami two months ago, had lived in several Central American countries.

Venezuela, which has an extradition agreement with the U.S., has asked Washington to return Carriles to them so he can be retried for the bombing of the airliner.

The Organization of American States secretary-general, José Miguel Insulza, has called for Posada Carriles' extradition in no uncertain terms.

"In case of evidence against him in Venezuela, then there is need for extradition to face justice," Insulza, who hails from Chile, said during an interview that ran on a Venezuelan TV channel. "In the world context of the fight against terrorism, terrorists should answer to the courts. Failure to continue this process would be hard to explain."

It certainly would. Yet few believe it will happen.

His lawyers are not only claiming that Posada Carriles would be tortured in Venezuela if extradited, but also that he deserves protection because, as they keep repeating, he has had many years of "service to the U.S."

One wonders if Posada Carriles and his lawyer count the bombing of six Havana hotels in 1997 - which he boasted of masterminding - as part of those years of service to the U.S.

In those attacks, an Italian-born Canadian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo, died and 11 people were wounded.

The next hearing on his case will take place on Sept. 26, and with asylum and extradition out of the question, what are the alternatives?

Posada Carriles could be detained indefinitely in the U.S., where the only criminal charge he faces is having entered the country illegally. The U.S. also could try to pressure a third country - it is doubtful that any nation would take such an unsavory character voluntarily - into granting him a visa.

Another option would be to put him on trial in the U.S., although no one thinks this is likely to happen.

After Posada Carriles was detained in Miami last May, Di Celmo's brother, Livio, distributed a letter to the media reminding everybody that President Bush himself has said: "If you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist."

His words resonate ever more strongly with every political maneuver to keep Posada Carriles from facing the justice he so richly deserves.

Originally published on September 4, 2005

The Posada case: Blackmailing the US government

Sept 3: LUIS Posada Carriles' defense attorney, announcing that his client was formally withdrawing his application for political asylum in the United States, said that "he knows a lot ... and if he talks it could hurt the FBI, the CIA and the government in general." That kind of statement has a name: blackmail.

Matthew J. Archambeault, Posada’s lawyer, later added that his client would not continue testifying because: "He may step into sensitive areas that could harm the security of the U.S. government or other countries."

As demonstrated with his statements to the New York Times several years ago, Posada’s threats could have a paralyzing effect, given that they range from drugs-for-arms deals by the U.S. government in Central America to the conspiracy to assassinate former President Kennedy.

The most recent events of the immigration hearing taking place in El Paso, Texas confirm the progression of negotiations between the White House and representatives for the international terrorist.

Eduardo Soto, Posada’s main defense attorney from Miami, told El Nuevo Herald in that city on August 29 that his "mysterious absence" from the immigration hearing was explained by negotiations with Washington "through a high-ranking official."

Soto revealed that an agreement had almost been reached providing for U.S. government protection of Posada under the International Convention Against Torture to guarantee that his client would not be sent to Cuba or Venezuela. In exchange, he would withdraw his petition for asylum.

Posada’s hearing is taking place at an immigration detention center in El Paso, Texas. Prosecutors have asked for a new hearing beginning September 26.

Torture? No fear! Posada Carriles (77) will get luxury treatment in Venezuela

Caracas, 1st Sept: Venezuelan opposition black propaganda against Venezuela came to its best expression in court in El Paso (Texas), Wednesday, when a defense lawyer -- headlined in the US media as a Venezuelan government official (Yes! Under a previous, corrupt administration!) -- said his CIA-trained terrorist client Luis Posada Carriles would withdraw his request for US asylum.

Instead his lawyer, currently enjoying a safe haven from Venezuelan justice in southern Florida, said Posada Carriles' defense team will focus on trying to prevent his 'deportation' to Venezuela.

In an astonishingly spurious claim to the US court, defense lawyer Joaquin F. Chaffardet Ramos said he believed the Venezuelan government would torture his client and send him bacl to Cuba after stripping him of his citizenship. Posada Carriles says he will be mistreated if he is returned to Venezuela to face charges that he plotted and executed the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.

US Immigration Judge William L. Abbott has said that Posada Carriles, who is a naturalized Venezuelan citizen although born in Cuba, should be sent. Venezuela. US government lawyers taking instructions from the White House say they need more information before they can decide if they will appeal the court's decision and a hearing is now scheduled for September 26.

Meanwhile, the Venezuela Justice Minister has confirmed that Posada Carriles will not be sent back to Cuba under any circumstances ... but that he will again be put on trial. Posada Carriles has bribed his way out of a Venezuelan prison in 1985 before a civil case against him came to trial.

It is recognized that Posada Carriles had received CIA training ahead of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and serious questions remain unanswered as to any role he may have played in the Dallas (Texas) assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Just two days ago the El Paso (Texas) court had been told by former Venezuelan secret police thug, Chaffardet Ramos -- and longtime associate of Posada Carriles who said that the anti-Castro CIA-terrorist "would surely suffer torture if the is deported or extradited to Venezuela."

The fact, however, is that if he is found guilty by a Venezuelan court of the charges attributed to him, Posada Carriles (77) will because of his age and reported poor state of health will not have to serve out a prison sentence but will routinely be accorded special 'house arrest' privileges.

If there should be any doubt about it, just ask former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez ... who was impeached, removed from office and 'imprisoned' in 1993 on multi-$million corruption charges. Although he briefly spent time awaiting trial in the El Junquito prison in western Caracas (with all modern conveniences and meals brought in from a luxury restaurante outside!) he was eventually sentenced to a period of house arrest at his luxury villa in Oripoto ... a southern suburb of Caracas ... where he held open-house to visiting members of the national and international media.

EL PASO, Texas (Miami Herald) - Anti-Castro emigre Luis Posada Carriles may not, after all, be deported to Venezuela, where he claims he would be tortured.

The judge overseeing his asylum and deportation trial in El Paso said on Wednesday that, on the face of it, Posada had presented enough evidence to persuade him that he could qualify for a form of U.S. protection. But Judge William Abbott said he would defer ruling until the end of the trial.

"He has made a prima facie case," Abbott said.

In addition, Posada's lawyer abruptly withdrew his application for asylum, saying if they had pressed ahead, he might have been forced to reveal "sensitive" information that would have been embarrassing to the United States.

Judge Abbott set Sept. 26 as the date for the government to start its case.

Unless Judge Abbott changes his mind, the striking development in immigration court here could allow Posada to stay in the United States-although he could be subject to indefinite detention.

Had he won asylum, Posada could have walked free and become eligible for a green card after a year. Withholding would have also given him freedom, without a green card.

A day earlier, Posada had testified in court that he needed asylum in the United States because Cuban leader Fidel Castro was persecuting him. However, the U.S. government presented evidence that Posada has lived and traveled throughout the region without encountering any persecution for 15 years. In 1990, Posada was almost killed during a failed assassination attempt in Guatemala that he has blamed on Castro agents.

The 77-year-old exile militant has been held at a federal immigration detention center in El Paso since he was briefly detained in Southwest Miami-Dade County May 17, about two months after he sneaked into the United States through the Mexican border near Brownsville, Texas. Although born in Cuba, Posada moved to Caracas and became a naturalized Venezuelan.

He has been accused of masterminding the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976 that killed 76 people off Barbados, organizing the bombing of hotels and restaurants in Cuba in 1997 that killed one person and conspiring to assassinate Castro in Panama in 2000.

The withdrawal of the asylum and withholding applications came after Posada's lead lawyer here, Matthew Archambeault, and the Department of Homeland Security's lead prosecutor, Gina Garrett-Jackson, struck an apparent compromise on the case.

Archambeault withdrew the asylum application and conceded in court that Posada does not qualify for withholding because U.S. immigration law prohibits terror and criminal suspects from receiving either form of protection. Garret-Jackson came close to conceding in court that the government agrees Posada could be tortured if deported to Venezuela, although she asked Judge Abbott for more time to review the situation further.

"We have serious concerns about Mr. Posada's claim to torture in Venezuela," Garret-Jackson said in court Wednesday. Her statement mirrored a statement to The Miami Herald late Tuesday by Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke who said of Posada: "We have serious and weighty concerns about the notion of a removal to Venezuela."

Garrett-Jackson's posture in court Wednesday departed from her initial position Monday, the day the trial began, when she did not object to Abbott's decision to designate Venezuela as the country to which Posada would be deported were he to lose his petitions and all appeals. At the time Garrett-Jackson said that Homeland Security agreed with Posada's contention he would be tortured if deported to Cuba, but did not make the same stipulation about Venezuela.

She declined Wednesday to stipulate Venezuela, but did not rule it out_saying Homeland Security needed time to consult with the Departments of State and Justice.

"The government would like to reserve the right to take a position," Garrett-Jackson said in court. "Still need time to assess the situation."

When Judge Abbott asked Garrett-Jackson Wednesday if she disagreed that Posada has made a "prima facie" case against deportation to Venezuela, she replied: "No opinion."

She also requested time to prepare a possible case to challenge Posada's petition to avoid deportation.

Posada's attorneys argue he qualifies for the protection, known as "deferral" of deportation, under terms of the Convention Against Torture, widely called CAT by immigration lawyers.

While a foreign national accused of engaging in acts of terror or believed to have committed "serious non-political" crimes abroad is barred from receiving asylum or withholding, he is still eligible for deferral under CAT.

Under deferral, the immigration judge orders the foreign national deported but then automatically defers the removal on the ground he is "more likely than not" to be tortured if deported.

Deferral is considered a temporary protection measure, giving Homeland Security discretion to keep the foreigner in detention until conditions in the country of removal have improved or a third country is found willing to accept the person and guarantee he would not be tortured or turned over to the country where he could be tortured.

Deferral under CAT also allows the government to deport the foreign national if it secures "diplomatic assurances" from the country where deportation is suspended that the person would not be tortured, Abbott said in court.

Homeland Security also has discretion under deferral to release the detainee under supervised conditions.

Archambeault said that if Posada wins deferral his lawyers plan to ask Homeland Security to release him, or resort to federal courts to order his release.

"If Adolf Hitler applied for CAT, this court would have to grant deferral," Abbott said. "Not that your client is like Hitler," Abbott added quickly, noting that no matter how terrible a deferral applicant's criminal or terrorist past is it does not disqualify him from the benefit if he can show likely torture in the country to which he is expelled.

Posada claims that Fidel Castro is persecuting him

EL PASO - Cuban emigre Luis Posada Carriles took the witness stand here Tuesday and claimed he is seeking asylum because Cuban leader Fidel Castro is persecuting him, but then acknowledged having lived and traveled throughout the region without encountering any harm in recent years.

Posada, 77, also denied having admitted in media interviews he was the mastermind of a series of bombings at Cuban tourist sites in 1997. He said one of the interviews, with The New York Times, was in English and therefore he misunderstood questions and misstated his answers because he had difficulty understanding the language. He said he understood similar questions in another interview with a Spanish-language television network but that his answers should not be construed as an admission of guilt.

In Venezuela Posada is wanted for the 1976 Cuban jet attack that killed 73 people. He fled from a Venezuelan prison before the government exhausted its appeals to try him. Posada denies involvement.

In Miami, meanwhile, Posada's lead attorney - Eduardo Soto - disclosed that he planned to file a U.S. citizenship application for his client on the ground he is eligible for naturalization under a law that makes it easier for members and former members of the U.S. military to apply for citizenship.

"All they need to demonstrate is membership in the armed forces during a period of hostility," Soto said, adding that his client was a U.S. soldier during the Vietnam War. Soto said he planned to file the application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ``as soon as possible."

Posada's 3 ?-hour testimony was the first time he has spoken publicly since giving a news conference in Miami-Dade County on May 17, just hours before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained and transported him to a detention center in El Paso.

Posada's asylum and deportation trial began on Monday when immigration Judge William Abbott said he would order him deported to Venezuela if he loses his bid for protection and appeals.

Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, said late Tuesday his agency had major problems with sending Posada to Venezuela.

His statement seemed to be a shift from the agency's position in court Monday when the Homeland Security Prosecutor Gina Garrett Jackson expressed no objection when Judge Abbott designated Venezuela as the place of deportation because Posada was a naturalized citizen of that country.

Garrett-Jackson did say she "reserved the right" to elaborate further on Venezuela at a later date. She said consultations were ongoing.

The first witness, prior to Posada, was his longtime friend and Caracas lawyer Joaquin Chaffardet who testified that if Posada is expelled to Venezuela he will be tortured and then turned over to Cuba.

Posada was briefly questioned by his attorney, Matthew Archambeault, regarding his reasons for seeking asylum in the United States.

Posada said Castro was persecuting him to "do me harm," and then cited an assassination attempt in Guatemala 15 years ago as evidence.

But when Posada was grilled for hours by Garrett-Jackson, it emerged he has used false passports and names to travel extensively around Central America and the Caribbean and nothing has happened to him since the Guatemalan attack in 1990.

In cross-examination, Garrett-Jackson elicited a series of contradictions by Posada about whether he faces imminent danger abroad.

Posada also refused to answer certain questions about using false identities, saying his answers would incriminate him.

But ultimately Posada acknowledged he used one false Salvadoran passport in the name of Franco Rodriguez Mena to travel to the United States on April 26, 2000 and then to enter Panama about seven months later where he was later convicted -- and subsequently pardoned - in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Castro.

Eventually, Garrett-Jackson asked Posada whether he stood by statements attributed to him in media interviews in which he was quoted as taking responsibility for the bombing attacks against Cuban hotels and restaurants in 1997.

Posada said he wanted to deny the report by The New York Times, not because he was misquoted, but because he had difficulty understanding the questions by reporter Ann Louise Bardach since his English is poor and therefore he probably did not explain himself clearly. Posada also said that The Times had retracted the article because of the language difficulty.

Bardach, who is covering the trial here, said afterward that the interview was mostly in English to make it easier to transcribe. But she said that during the interview in Aruba, Posada never expressed difficulty in understanding questions and that his English was ``excellent."

The Times never published a retraction. It did publish an editor's note in which it clarified that Cuban American National Foundation leaders had not ``paid specifically for the hotel bombings."

Judge says he will send Posada to Venezuela if he denies asylum

EL PASO, Texas - A US federal immigration judge on Monday said he will order Luis Posada Carriles deported to Venezuela if he denies the Cuban emigre and former CIA agent protection in the United States.

A Department of Homeland Security prosecutor did not object to Judge William Abbott's decision on the first day of Posada's immigration trial at a federal detention centre.

It was the first time since immigration officers detained Posada in Miami-Dade County on May 17 that the United States has publicly named a country where the controversial emigre would be expelled if the judge denies him residency in the US.

Posada has been housed in El Paso his detention in Miami-Dade. Despite Abbott's announcement, it does not guarantee that Posada's deportation would be automatic. The judge can order deportation, then suspend it on the ground Posada could face torture in Venezuela, an ally of Cuba.

Abbott's decision goes against initial US statements after Posada's detention when federal authorities said they would not deport Posada to Cuba or Venezuela, which has close ties to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"As a matter of immigration law and policy, ICE does not generally remove people to Cuba, nor does ICE generally remove people to countries believed to be acting on Cuba's behalf," the statement said.

Many analysts interpreted the statement as a tacit reference to Venezuela where president Hugo Chavez, an ally of Castro, has also demanded Posada's extradition to stand trial for the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976.

But on Monday, Gina Garrett-Jackson, the lead Homeland Security assistant chief counsel, suggested to Abbott that the federal government would not object to designating Venezuela as the country of deportation since Posada is a naturalized Venezuelan. Garrett-Jackson told the judge that the United States "reserved the right" to elaborate further on its position on Venezuela at a later date. She said consultations were ongoing between Homeland Security and the departments of State and Justice. She said the government did not wish to deport Posada to Cuba, his country of birth, because Homeland Security believed that "he would face torture there".

When Abbott asked Posada's lawyers what country they would like their client deported to if he lost his bid for asylum, attorney Matthew Archambeault said "we respectfully decline." Garrett-Jackson told Abbott on Monday that Posada can't receive asylum because US immigration law bars protection for terrorism suspects and those accused of "non-political crimes" committed before arriving in the United States.

Then she listed Posada's alleged crimes: claims that he masterminded tourist-site bombings in Cuba in 1997 and his conviction in Panama in connection with an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Castro in 2000. Posada was pardoned and freed in that case, but US immigration law does not recognize foreign pardons. Posada, 77, sat in the courtroom wearing a bright red detainee jumpsuit, and addressed Abbott when the judge asked if he wanted to press ahead with his asylum application. "I want to continue," Posada said.

The hearing resumes Tuesday morning with Posada calling his first witness: Joaquin Chaffardet, Posada's Venezuelan lawyer and longtime friend.

Chaffardet told The Miami Herald recently in Caracas that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he and Posada served together as intelligence officers in DISIP, the Venezuelan state security police, and later jointly opened a private investigation firm.

Chaffardet is expected to testify that Posada could never get a fair trial in Venezuela and that government has no jurisdiction in any subsequent Posada case.

Two relatives of one of the plane-bombing victims stood outside the detention center during the 45-minute hearing.

"After all these years, we are here to hopefully see Luis Posada Carriles be held accountable for the bombing," said Sharon Persaud, whose brother Raymond Persaud died in the plane crash.

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