- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Tens of thousands of Cubans demanded yesterday during a demonstration in downtown Havana that the U.S. government extradite a 77-year-old anti-Castro activist to stand trial in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner off Barbados that killed 73 persons.

Luis Posada Carriles, who was pardoned in August by then-Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso in a 2000 plot to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and reportedly has been in hiding since in Central America, was taken into custody yesterday by U.S. immigration agents in Miami.

“Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Mr. Luis Posada Carriles into custody, pending review of his immigration status,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The department has 48 hours to make an official determination of his immigration status.

Mr. Castro led much of yesterday’s four-hour demonstration, which focused on the U.S. Mission in Havana.

“This is not a march against the people of the United States,” he told the demonstrators. “It is a march against terrorism, in favor of life and of peace.”

Mr. Posada Carriles, a Cuban national who fled that country in 1961, had been seeking asylum in the United States, but said he had decided instead to leave the country. He was arrested before he could carry out the plans.

“If my petition for political asylum created any problem to the government of the United States, I am ready to reconsider my petition,” he told reporters in Miami. “My only objective is to fight for the freedom of my country.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the case would be handled by U.S. law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security and the Justice Department, but confirmed that federal officials had received a Venezuelan request to extradite Mr. Posada Carriles to that country. “I can confirm that we have received a provisional arrest request, which we forward to the Department of Justice, per normal procedure,” he said.

Mr. Posada Carriles, in an interview with the Miami Herald, denied any involvement in the 1976 airplane bombing.

But Mr. Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez both have demanded that he be returned to Venezuela, where he faces formal charges in connection with the bombing.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon yesterday called on Washington to honor an existing bilateral treaty and extradite Mr. Posada Carriles, who has been identified as a former CIA collaborator and who served in the U.S. Army.

He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 while awaiting a court ruling involving an appeal by a prosecutor who objected to an acquittal in the case. He reportedly was involved in anti-Castro activities in United States, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico beginning in 1964.

In November 2000, the Cuban government announced that it had uncovered plans to assassinate Mr. Castro at a summit in Panama. Panamanian authorities later found explosives, arrested Mr. Posada Carriles and three others, who were later convicted of endangering public security.

In August, Mrs. Moscoso pardoned Mr. Posada Carriles and allowed him to be flown out of the country, reportedly to Honduras. Authorities said he later entered the United States through Mexico with the help of an alien smuggler, taking a bus to Miami.

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