Posada Charges Dropped, Venezuela Fumes

Venezuela is indignant over the dismissal of an immigration-fraud indictment against former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. Cuba and Venezuela want Posada extradited for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.

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Cuba and Venezuela have accused the White House of manipulating the legal system in the case involving Luis Posada Carriles. He is a 79-year-old Cuban exile, who in the past has claimed responsibility for bombings to undermine Fidel Castro's regime. Some people see him as a freedom fighter; to others, he is a self-confessed terrorist.

This week a judge in Texas threw out an indictment accusing Posada of lying to immigration authorities.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Ever since Posada sneaked into the U.S. two years ago, his case has been a test for the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Venezuela wants him to be tried in connection with the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, an attack that killed 73 people. An attorney representing the Venezuelan government, Jose Pertierra, called the immigration case a travesty of justice.

Mr. JOSE PERTIERRA (Immigration Rights Lawyer): Venezuela is indignant not over the dismissal of the indictment by the judge, but by the way that this government has handled the entire matter of Posada Carriles.

KELEMEN: Pertierra says he never took the case in Houston seriously because even if Posada were convicted of lying about how he entered the U.S., he probably would have gotten off on time served. Pertierra accuses the Bush administration of trying to fool people into believing it is doing something about Posada while ignoring a request by Venezuela that he be extradited. Asked about Venezuela's extradition request today, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would only say this.

Mr. SEAN McCORMACK (Spokesman, U.S. State Department): I know that we have done some due diligence with the government of Venezuela. There's a process where there was a lot of back and forth requesting documentation but it's not something as of this point that the U.S. government has acted on.

KELEMEN: A U.S. judge citing concerns about possible torture previously determined that Posada cannot be deported to Venezuela, where he's a naturalized citizen. Attorney Pertierra says Venezuela is planning to pursue its extradition request and is asking the United Nations and the Organization of American States to examine the conduct of the U.S. government.

Mr. PERTIERRA: Politically, it is very clear that you cannot wage a war against terrorism a la carte, picking and choosing which terrorists you're going to prosecute and which terrorists you are going to protect. All terrorists should be prosecuted and Posada Carriles ought to be no exception whether he have friends in the White House or not.

KELEMEN: A State Department spokesman says the U.S. takes seriously its promise to confront terrorism around the globe. The Department of Justice says it's reviewing Tuesday's decision to throw out the immigration fraud charges against Posada. The next twist could come soon as a grand jury in New Jersey considers whether to indict Posada for his alleged role in hotel bombings in Havana in 1997.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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