On May 8, Federal Judge Kathleen Carbone cancelled the trial of Luis Posada Carriles on immigration fraud, set for May 11 in El Paso, Texas. She ruled that the government’s handling of the case had major flaws.

As a result, Posada, a self-admitted terrorist who some call “the bin Laden of the Americas,” is again walking free.

Only days before the ruling, the National Security Archives released declassified U.S. intelligence files providing additional evidence that Posada, a Cuban exile and naturalized Venezuelan, planned the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that took 73 lives. The documents portrayed two Posada employees who planted the bombs as desperately trying to contact him after the attack.

Interviewed by telephone, Jose Pertierra, a lawyer who represents Venezuela in the case, told the World, “It’s really disgusting. The mastermind of terror walks a free man in Miami.”

However, Pertierra characterizes the situation now as “markedly different” from that of March 2005, when Posada first arrived in Florida. Today, he said, “Posada is considered to be a terrorist by most Americans who know him.” Pertierra cited recent disapproving op-ed pieces in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, and questioning editorials around the country.

Demonstrations protesting Posada’s release took place across the U.S. on May 11-12. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) have demanded that anti-terrorism laws be applied to Posada. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), along with Kucinich and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), has called for a congressional hearing on the government’s role in the case.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing May 10, Delahunt queried Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the Bush administration’s inaction on Posada’s terrorism involvement, without receiving a direct answer.

Venezuela has yet to receive a reply from Washington on its two-year-old request for Posada’s extradition. The Chavez government is appealing to the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the International Court at The Hague for help in bringing Posada back to Venezuela for trial for the airliner bombing.

A New Jersey grand jury is investigating alleged funding by New Jersey Cuban Americans of attempts by Posada in 1997 to disrupt Cuba’s tourist industry. In a New York Times interview a year later, Anna Louise Bardach recorded Posada’s admission that he recruited Central Americans to bomb Havana hotels. One such attack killed an Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo.

Bardach has been subpoenaed and FBI investigators went to Cuba to gather evidence. This suggests that a Posada trial on charges of terrorism and murder is not impossible. But Pertierra was doubtful. “That’s a long time and there’s lots of evidence, and still we’ve seen no indictment,” he said, recalling allegations that the FBI destroyed evidence about the case in 2003.

Venezuela would be pleased if Posada is prosecuted for the murder of Fabio Di Celmo, Pertierra said, adding that Venezuela’s “extradition request would be held in abeyance, until a trial could be completed.” If no trial takes place, extradition would then be “very much on the table,” he said.

Pertierra connected the Posada case with the anti-terrorist Cuban Five. Noting Posada’s criminal activities and the 1997 terror campaign, he suggested that “Posada was the reason why the Cuban Five were sent to the United States.”

The only way Cuba could defend itself was to find out who was behind the attacks and to inform the FBI, he said. The Clinton administration disregarded such information in 1998, and instead arrested the men who collected it — the Cuban Five.

Pertierra called it a “travesty of justice that Posada Carriles is now walking a free man in Miami while those brave patriots from Cuba who really were combating Posada’s terror in the United States have been given those long sentences.”

He said the imprisonment of the Five is “such a double standard and the height of hypocrisy” that it will raise questions. “And the more that questions are raised, the more the U.S. government can be held accountable and hopefully that will translate into political and legal action.”

To the Cuban Five, he said, “The truth will set you free.”

atwhit @megalink.net

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