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Cuba denounced Carriles acquittal

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Cuba denounced Carriles acquittal

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HAVANA – The Cuban government has denounced the acquittal of the alleged bomber of a Cuban airliner off Barbados in 1976. A 12-member jury, in US federal district court in El Paso, Texas on Friday acquitted Luis Posada Carriles, an ex-CIA operative, of all 11 charges of lying about his alleged role in bombings in Cuba in 1997 and about how he sneaked into the United States in 2005. Posada, 83, was arrested after the bombing of the Cuban airliner off Barbados that killed 73 people. But after he was acquitted by a military tribunal, he escaped from jail while facing a civilian trial. Cuban Parliament Chief Ricardo Alarcon denounced as a “shameful farce” the three-month trial that exonerated Posada.“The stupid and shameful farce is over,” he told reporters here.  “There were things the jury did not know, particularly since the judge prohibited them from being told.” The Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez also denounced the verdict, describing the trial as “theater” staged by Washington “to continue protecting the terrorist.”Venezuela claims that Posada was the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner off Barbados. A Venezuela foreign ministry statement said it will on Monday summon the top US diplomat in Caracas in reiterating its request for Posada’s extradition. Over the years, Cuba and Venezuela have sought Posada’s extradition to face murder charges, but a US immigration judge has denied their request, stating that he would be tortured if sent back. As soon as US District Judge Kathleen Cardone read the unanimous verdict on Friday, Posada and his three lawyers embraced each other.  “I feel happy,” Posada told reporters afterwards, outside the courtroom, “I am supremely grateful to the United States of America, to the fairness with which I’ve been judged, to the jury that absolved me and what happened here should serve as an example for justice in my country, Cuba, which is, unfortunately, in the hands of a dictator.” Arturo V. Hernandez, Posada’s lead defense attorney, said it was “a total rejection of the government’s case after weeks of trial, 20-plus witnesses and hundreds of exhibits.”“And this jury returned a verdict of not guilty in less than 120 minutes. I cannot think of another case that meets that criteria,” he added, disclosing that Posada plans to return to his family in Miami in a few days.Assistant US Attorney Timothy Reardo said: “Anytime a jury has a case, there’s no telling what they might do. But we respect the jury’s decision.”The decision culminates four years of efforts by the US to convict Posada, who, for decades, allegedly worked to destabilize the Castro government in Cuba and other communist regimes in Latin America.  After sneaking into the United States in 2005, prosecutors said Posada sought political asylum, then US citizenship. They alleged that he lied while under oath, during court hearings, about how he entered the country and that he denied masterminding a series of hotel bombings in Havana, Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and wounded 12 others. In 1998, Posada admitted in a New York Times interview that he planned the attacks but later changed his story. “The theater was worth more than the evidence in this case,” said Jose Pertierra, a Washington-based lawyer who represents Venezuela in its case against Posada.“The evidence was strong. We heard the voice of Luis Posada saying he was the mastermind of the bombings,” added Pertierra, who sat through the case. But Pepe Hernandez, head of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, who trained with Posada ahead of the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, hailed Friday’s verdict. “The US government had a very scant case,” he said. “Obviously, it didn’t have any evidence beyond that of Ann Louise Bardach,” referring to the reporter who had interviewed Posada, during which he initially admitted to the 1997 hotel bombings in Cuba. (CMC)