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Judge delays trial of ex-CIA agent
Question of the Day
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday delayed for another week the perjury trial of an elderly ex-CIA agent while she considers defense claims that prosecutors deliberately delayed turning over documents that showed a witness had worked for Cuban counterintelligence.
Attorneys for 83-year-old Luis Posada Carriles have filed a motion for a mistrial, saying they didn’t know the man had worked for the Cuban government when prosecutors put him on the stand because prosecutors hadn’t yet turned over the documents. They say that wasn’t fair.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone suspended the trial for four days to review the defense motion. She then called the jury in and said she would need until Feb. 22 to rule.
Prosecutors allege Mr. Posada lied while seeking U.S. citizenship during immigration hearings in El Paso, making false statements about how he sneaked into the United States in March 2005 and failing to acknowledge planning a series of 1997 bombings in Cuba that killed an Italian tourist.
Mr. Posada, who spent decades as a Washington-backed Cold Warrior, traversing Latin America to foment violence, is Public Enemy No. 1 in Cuba. He admitted responsibility for the bombings of hotels and the Cuban beach resort of Varadero during a 1998 interview with the New York Time but has since recanted.
Cuba and Venezuela would like to try Mr. Posada for the 1997 bombings or the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, but a U.S. immigration judge previously ruled he can’t be sent to either country for fear he could be tortured.
In the United States, Mr. Posada is not on trial for the bombings. Instead, he faces perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud charges.
Defense attorneys have taken issue with the testimony of Lt. Col. Roberto Hernandez Caballero, who described the 1997 bombings of hotels in Havana and the Cuban beach resort of Varadero for jurors last week.
Col. Hernandez Caballero has testified twice before in separate U.S. court proceedings, including a federal hijacking case in Tampa, Fla. He said then that he was a member of the Cuba’s counterintelligence agency. During Mr. Posada’s trial, Col. Hernandez Caballero said only that he was an investigator.
Mr. Posada’s defense team said it found out late about Col. Hernandez Caballero’s real job description because prosecutors delayed providing the transcript of his testimony in the Florida case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Reardon called the request for a mistrial “an extraordinary and ridiculous motion.”
The defense motion also referred to two previously classified FBI reports it says prosecutors also were slow to turn over. The first asserted that the 1997 bombings were the work of the Cuban government so as to blame them on the United States, or that they were carried out by dissenting officers within the island’s armed forces or Interior Ministry.
The second report warned that Mr. Posada could be the target of a 2004 assassination attempt by the Cuban government. Mr. Posada was shot in the face by would-be assassins in Guatemala in 1990.
Mr. Posada participated indirectly in the United States’ failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and later served as head of intelligence for Venezuela’s government. A Venezuelan military court dismissed charges against him in the airliner bombing, but he escaped from prison before a civilian trial against him was completed.
He was arrested in Panama in 2000 in a plot to kill Cuba’s then-president, Fidel Castro, during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004 before turning up in the United States.
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