Mon Sep 11, 2006 8:56pm ET144
By Aracely Lazcano
EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. magistrate on Monday recommended releasing a 79-year-old Cuban exile accused of violent acts against Fidel Castro's government, including a 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney said Luis Posada Carriles, a naturalized Venezuelan and former CIA operative, must be freed because the U.S. government has been unable to find within the time allowed a legally acceptable country willing to give him asylum if he were deported.
The recommendation now goes to a U.S. district judge for final decision on Posada, who has been detained since 2005 for illegally crossing the border into Texas from Mexico.
He has been a political hot potato for the Bush administration because of his history of violent acts to sabotage Castro's government.
Caracas and Havana charge that Posada masterminded the attack on a Cuban airliner as it took off from Barbados and view him as a terrorist. The two countries are ideological allies and accuse the United States of using double standards in its treatment of Posada, given Washington's declared war on terrorism.
The case has tested already tense relations between the United States and Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter and a top supplier to the U.S. market.
The U.S. Justice Department has now 10 days to file objections and try to persuade the higher court to reject the recommendation, Posada's lawyer said. The U.S. official involved could not be reached for comment.
"The judge had ruled he (Posada) could not be deported to Venezuela or Cuba, which are his only two countries of nationality, because he would be subject to torture," said Posada's attorney, Eduardo Soto of Coral Gables, Florida.
"The only thing the government could do was find a third country that would accept him, and the six countries contacted by the U.S. government in late 2005 in unison said they would not accept him," the lawyer said.
The Bush Administration has hostile relations with Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The U.S. government, under the law, has 90 days to either deport a person to a safe country or release him, Soto said. Because he was considered a security risk, Posada was kept longer pending a decision in the courts.
Posada's lawyer said he is in ill health, suffering from several ailments including heart disease. Posada filed court papers renouncing violence and said other means must now be used to oppose Castro.