Mon, Apr 09, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US court frees `anti-Castro' agent

'DOUBLE STANDARDS' Cuban authorities were furious at a US court decision to release Posada Cariles, a former CIA operative accused of downing a Cuban airliner in 1976

AFP , HAVANA

Cuba on Saturday slammed what it said was blatant US double standards on terrorism after a US federal judge ordered the release of an anti-Castro activist convicted in the deadly downing of a Cuban jet.

"The court ruling is yet another confirmation of the [US President] George W. Bush administration's double standard on its alleged war on terror," the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma said.

Immigration

The ruling by a federal judge in Texas does not necessarily mean that former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, 79, will leave jail immediately, however, since he could be arrested by US immigration officials who have a deportation order for him.

On Friday, Carriles was ordered freed pending a hearing on immigration fraud charges.

The US judge ordered the Cuban-born Venezuelan national released on a US$350,000 bail on condition that he remain confined to his Miami home and submit to "electronic monitoring," said the text of the order by the federal court in El Paso, Texas.

Mastermind

Posada Carriles, a fierce opponent of Cuban President Fidel Castro, was accused of masterminding the downing of a Cuban jet off Barbados in 1976 in which 73 people were killed.

Carriles was detained in Venezuela in 1976 and convicted in the case, but managed to flee prison in 1985.

He was also sentenced to eight years' jail in Panama in a bomb plot to assassinate Castro during an Ibero-American summit there in 2000, but was pardoned by then outgoing president Mireya Moscoso.

"The international community is demanding justice. And Venezuela is pressing on in its bid to have him extradited," the Cuban statement in Granma added.

Posada Carriles was detained by US immigration officials in May 2005 for entering the US illegally.

He is currently held in a federal prison in New Mexico.

US officials have refused to release Posada Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, claiming that he might be tortured.

But they have also refuse to free him, calling him a threat to national security.

Havana and Caracas accuse Washington of harboring a known terrorist.

US immigration authorities criticized the judge's release order and said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials would arrest Posada Carriles.

Disappointment

"We are disappointed with the ruling. We remind you there is an immigration detainer pending against Mr Posada," ICE spokesman Michael Keegan said.

"This detainer means Mr Posada will remain in federal custody although he will be transferred from the custody of the US marshals to that of" the ICE, he said.

Declassified US documents have shown that Posada Carriles worked for the CIA from 1965 to June 1976.

He reportedly helped the US government ferry supplies to the Contra rebels that were waging a bloody campaign to topple the socialist Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The ICE said in a letter to Posada Carriles that "because of your long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed, your release from detention would pose a danger to both the community and the national security of the United States."

"Your expertise in assuming false identities, your disregard of immigration laws of the United States, your history of escape and the presence of your pending extradition request demonstrate that you pose a significant risk of fleeing if released from custody," the ICE letter said.

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