On Jan. 11 a federal grand jury indicted Luis Posada Carriles on one charge of fraud and six counts of lying about his illegal arrival in the United States on March 17, 2005. The charges are far removed from accusations of terrorism and murder generally associated with the Cuban exile.

His crimes are well documented. Declassified material made available by the National Security Archives attests to his role in bombing a Cuban airliner off Barbados in 1976 and causing the deaths of its 73 passengers. Ann Louise Bardach, writing for The New York Times, heard him take responsibility for bomb attacks on Havana hotels in 1997, one of them killing an Italian tourist.

Posada is protected by right-wing Cuban Americans. As a former CIA operative during the 1960s, and later on with the Nicaraguan Contras, he has been well poised, should he appear in court, to embarrass his former employer.

Although U.S. immigration authorities have held him since May 17, 2005, he has been charged until now only with illegal entry. Washington has refused to extradite him, as requested, to Venezuela. He is wanted there so that court proceedings on the airliner case might resume. They had been interrupted by his CIA-assisted escape from jail in 1985.

On the other hand, for almost two years worldwide public opinion has condemned the tolerance of a terrorist by the self-proclaimed head of the war on terrorism, George W. Bush. Additionally the contradiction between kid glove treatment of Posada and the brutal persecution of the anti-terrorist Cuban Five, incarcerated in U.S. jails, has generated widespread condemnation.

In September, a federal judge ruled that detained immigrants without documents had to be either deported or released. Deportation became unlikely after six countries refused to take Posada in. The deadline for Posada’s release was Feb. 1, and Washington, perhaps leery of setting the killer free, took action.

Any prosecution on charges of fraud and lying has the potential of keeping him detained. Lawyer Jose Pertierra indicated that a Jan. 17 hearing on bail and other pre-trial conditions will rule on whether Posada is to be released. Pertierra, Venezuela’s U.S. legal representative, added that now, with charges pending, Posada can no longer be extradited to Venezuela. He can still be tried, however, “for being a terrorist, as international treaties oblige.”

The government’s case against Posada rests upon the testimony of Gilbert Abascal, an associate of Santiago Alvarez, a wealthy real estate developer and anti-Cuban terrorist, and Alvarez’s employee Osvaldo Mitat. Abascal contradicted Posada’s story to immigration officials and the press that he had crossed from Mexico into Texas and taken the bus to Miami.

Abascal told prosecutors that Alvarez, Mitat and he had crewed the yacht the Santrina as it transferred Posada from Isla de Mujeres off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to a Florida marina. Fidel Castro had presented that version of Posada’s arrival in Florida over Cuban television on April 11, 2005, only to provoke denial from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as to Posada’s presence in the state.

Alvarez and Mitat had been summoned from Florida jails to testify on Jan. 11 at the El Paso hearing. They refused and were also indicted. Abascal’s earlier testimony in Florida against Alvarez and Mitat had sent them to jail for illegal weapons possession, their terms reduced by plea-bargaining.

Surprisingly, at least one other federal investigation apparently is looking into some of Posada’s terrorist activities. A federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., has reportedly listened to reports about money transfers from New Jersey’s Cuban American community to Posada in El Salvador as he was organizing bomb attacks on Cuban hotels.

In October prosecutors issued a subpoena to reporter Ann Louise Bardach ordering her to release materials used for her New York Times article on Posada.

atwhit @ megalink.net