Exile Luis Posada Carriles indicted in Texas on immigration charges
Updated: 9:44 p.m. ET Jan 11, 2007
EL PASO, Texas - A Cuban exile suspected of plotting the bombing of a jetliner 30 years ago in Venezuela was indicted Thursday on charges of lying during naturalization proceedings, the Justice Department said.
The presence of Luis Posada Carriles on American soil has put federal officials in a difficult position — critics accuse the U.S. of harboring a terrorist, yet federal policy has typically protected anti-Castro Cuban exiles.
Posada, 78, a former CIA operative with ties to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in the 1960s, is wanted by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela to face trial in the 1976 Cuban jetliner bombing. But a federal immigration judge who ordered Posada out of the United States ruled he could not be sent to either country.
Several countries have rejected U.S. requests for Posada to be sent there.
Posada, who was born in Cuba and is a naturalized citizen of Venezuela, is charged with one count of naturalization fraud and six counts of making false statements in a naturalization proceeding, according to the Justice Department.
The indictment alleges that Posada knowingly lied on his application and under oath when applying for naturalization to the United States in September 2005 and April 2006.
He said he traveled from Honduras through Belize, ultimately reaching the United States near Brownsville, Texas, with the help of a human smuggler. But Posada actually entered the country by sea on a boat with four others, according to the indictment.
Santiago Alvarez, a key Posada benefactor, and Osvaldo Mitat, one of Alvarez’s employees, were indicted in El Paso on a charge of failing to appear before the grand jury. Both pleaded guilty to a weapons charge in Florida last year and are in prison there.
The indictment also says Posada had a fake Guatemalan passport bearing his photograph and the name Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez.
If convicted, Posada faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the naturalization fraud count and five years in prison on each of the false statement counts.
Felipe Millan, Posada’s attorney, told The Associated Press he had not seen the indictment and had no immediate comment.
Posada is expected to appear in court next week on the charges, the Justice Department said.
The indictment beats a Feb. 1 deadline set by a judge that forced the U.S. government to provide evidence justifying Posada’s detention.
Peter Kornbluh, of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the indictment does not address Posada’s perceived role in the bombing in Venezuela.
“The administration has to get into his terrorist crimes before it is clear that it is serious about bringing Posada to justice,” Kornbluh said.
Posada’s lawyers contend the United States is violating a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that foreign nationals who can’t be deported could not be held indefinitely. The high court set a six-month maximum, and Posada has been in U.S. custody in El Paso since May 2005.