The Wall Street Journal ran an article on May 22 questioning Bush administration ties to the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian group based in Iraq dedicated to destabilizing the Iranian government. The MEK is on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations.
But high-level worries about cooperation with terrorists do not extend to terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, now in U.S. custody. Posada has all but admitted bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 aboard, and trying to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000, but the only U.S. charge against him is for illegal entry.
The Bush administration, apparently uncomfortable about keeping Posada in jail for a year on a minor charge, recently issued a statement admitting he is indeed dangerous.
Since then Washington has faced an increasing dilemma in refusing to extradite Posada to Venezuela. Venezuela wants Posada so that court proceedings in the airplane bombing case can resume, proceedings that were interrupted by his escape from jail in 1985.
“This is an airtight case,” writes Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s U.S. attorney, in a recent article in Counterpunch. “Only the Bush administration’s desire to shelter this international terrorist impedes his extradition, but the law is clear.”
Pertierra specifies three legal grounds for Posada’s extradition or prosecution: the Venezuela-U.S. extradition treaty of 1922, an International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, and the 1973 Civil Aviation Convention. The last states that the “contracting state in the territory of which the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception,” to prosecute him.
Posada’s defense team, however, is undeterred by international law. They have threatened to call Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, prosecutor and accused, respectively, in the Iran-Contra hearings, as witnesses in a future Posada trial. The two could verify Posada’s loyal U.S. government service during the Contra war in Nicaragua and the Vietnam War. For Posada’s lawyers, that is a basis for their client being released and gaining citizenship.
Meanwhile, at hearings preparatory to an upcoming trial for illegal weapons possession, the lawyer for Santiago Alvarez, another anti-Cuba terrorist and one of Posada’s minions, introduced testimony refuting the story about Posada’s arrival to the U.S. in March 2005. Immigration officials had accepted Posada’s claims that he arrived by bus from Mexico. However, the testimony showed he actually traveled to Miami on Alvarez’s yacht.
Two witnesses at grand jury hearings in Texas reportedly corroborated the testimony. Pertierra comments, “It is a serious felony to smuggle anyone into the United States, but if the person smuggled is a terrorist, the penalties could include as much as 35 years in prison.”
Finally, the Panamanian government is investigating charges that immigration, police and prison officials were bribed to enable Posada and three others to leave Panama on Aug. 26, 2004. Outgoing President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them, nullifying their convictions for plotting to kill Fidel Castro. Panama’s Supreme Court is also reviewing the constitutionality of the presidential pardons.
The U.S government is accused of facilitating arrangements that began with right-wing Cubans raising $4 million to pay off Moscoso, plus giving her a $125,000 Cadillac. Moscoso now lives in Miami.
Raul Gomez, writing at rebelion.org, describes ongoing contacts between Panamanian officials and U.S. ambassadors relating to the pardons. Colin Powell, visiting in December 2003 as secretary of state, is said to have told Moscoso that George W. Bush wanted the four men to be acquitted, or to be pardoned and released. On Jan. 20, 2004, Under Secretary of State Otto Reich conferred with Moscoso, and the word got back to Miami that Reich had “arranged everything.”
Gomez has new information that human smugglers provided $6 million for 500 young Chinese immigrants to be allowed to enter Panama illegally. Some of that sum was used to bribe officials arranging for the four men’s departure. The operation was allegedly coordinated in the U.S. Embassy in Panama City.
Meanwhile, a possible Posada clone has been unearthed in Upland, Calif. As of May 19, Robert Ferro is being held on five counts of possessing illegal weapons. He had accumulated 1,571 rifles, machine guns and grenades in preparation for an attack on Cuba. Ferro claimed membership in the Florida-based paramilitary group Alpha 66.