By ALICIA A. CALDWELL – April 8, 9:25 p.m.
EL PASO, Texas (Associated Press) — An anti-Castro Cuban militant was accused Wednesday in a federal indictment of lying about his involvement in a series of 1997 bombings that targeted tourist spots in Cuba.
Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and U.S. Army soldier, was indicted on 11 counts, including perjury and obstruction of a federal proceeding. The 81-year-old militant had previously been indicted on six counts, including immigration fraud and lying to federal authorities in a bid to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The indictment is the first time Posada has been accused in the United States of being involved in the bombings. Cuban authorities have long accused him of orchestrating the bombings as well as a deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner.
Felipe Millan, Posada's El Paso lawyer, said Posada denies the charges.
"He's innocent ... and looks forward to having his day in court," Millan told The Associated Press.
Efforts to reach the Cuban Interest Section, which Havana has in Washington, D.C., in place of an embassy, were unsuccessful Wednesday evening.
The Cuban government did not immediately comment on the indictment, which came after offices closed for the day. The evening news broadcast on state television did not mention it.
Posada was originally indicted in January 2007. At the time, prosecutors alleged that he lied to investigators about having used an alias and about how he entered the United States in the spring of 2005. Posada claims he sneaked across the border from Mexico near Brownsville, Texas, but prosecutors say he arrived in Miami on a boat from Mexico.
The new indictment charges that Posada, who is wanted in Venezuela and Cuba in the airline bombing, lied about being involving in "soliciting other individuals to carry out ... bombings in Cuba."
Prosecutors allege he also lied about asking a man named Raul Cruz Leon to take into Cuba explosives used in the 1997 bombings of Havana hotels that they say were aimed at hurting Cuban tourism. Cruz was sentenced to death for the bombings, which killed an Italian tourist.
Posada previously admitted involvement in the hotel bombings in published interviews, saying that the bombs were intended only to "break windows and cause minor damage" and that the death of tourist Fabio di Celmo was "bad luck." He later recanted his involvement.
Posada, a Cuban native and naturalized Venezuelan citizen, denied knowing Cruz or having anything to do with those bombings during a hearing in El Paso in 2005.
He was arrested on immigration charges in Miami in 2005. He was held at an immigration jail in El Paso until being indicted in the fraud case.
An immigration judge in El Paso ordered that Posada should be deported in 2005, but said the ailing militant could not be sent to Cuba or Venezuela because of fears he could be tortured.
Posada has been freed on bond, living with his family in Florida, since 2007. No trial date has been set.
The fraud case against Posada was initially thrown out by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, who said the government manipulated Posada's naturalization interview. Cardone ruled that the government's Spanish-to-English translation of the April 2006 interview was "so inaccurate as to render it unreliable as evidence of defendant's actual statement."
The judge also agreed with Posada's lawyers that the naturalization interview had been a pretext for a criminal investigation.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed Cardone's ruling last year and earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Posada's request to have the case dismissed based on government trickery.
Posada initially sought asylum in the U.S. before withdrawing that application and asking to become a naturalized citizen.
Associated Press writers Will Lester in Washington and Anita Snow in Havana contributed to this report.
JG: This time the charges are more serious. They are trying to link him to the terrorist bombings in Havana in 1997. Now he is in real trouble. Throw the book at him!
Miami Herald reaction.