Alleged Cubana terrorist goes on trial

rhondathompson, rhondathompson@nationnews.com

Added 10 January 2011

MIAMI – The man whom Cuba has described as a terrorist for allegedly killing 73 people on board a Cubana airliner off Barbados in 1976 went on trial  today in a federal court in Texas.  Luis Posada Carriles has also been accused of plotting to kill former Cuban President Fidel Castro by blowing up a jam-packed auditorium in Panama and masterminding a string of blasts in Havana that killed one tourist. But US prosecutors say the Miami exile on Monday faces only 11 counts of lying under oath and related offenses, mostly because he denied to US immigration officials any role in the Havana blasts. “They wisely chose a perjury case,” said Thomas Scott, a former federal judge and US attorney in Miami. “On that issue, they've got a reasonable shot of conviction.” The case has been five years in the making, since the CIA-trained explosives expert turned up in Miami in 2005. If convicted, Posada, who is 82 years old, could get from five to eight years in prison. Many of the 560 filings in the case so far remain sealed – not available to the public – including items related to Posada's CIA history and his taped interview with author Ann Louise Bardach. The US Justice Department attorneys had asked for the seals. Legal experts say prosecutors don't have to prove Prosada was responsible for the Havana blasts. They say prosecutors only need to show that there was a crime, that Posada played some part in it; and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he lied when he denied any role in the bombings. Prosecutors say they plan to present 3,500 pages of Cuban and Guatemalan government reports on the Havana bombings and call Cuban police officers as witnesses. Also expected to testify is a Cuban American, who claims Posada handled explosives for the Havana blasts in an office they shared in Guatemala City, US prosecutors say. In addition, the FBI says its agents have records showing about US$19,000 in wire transfers from Cuban exiles in New Jersey to Posada in El Salvador and Guatemala between October 1996 and January 1998. The FBI alleges the money was used to finance the bombings. (CMC)

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