A federal judge on Wednesday threw out immigration fraud charges against Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, a fierce Fidel Castro opponent who is suspected in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. A reporter who covered the case explains.
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Thousands gathered in Havana in October 1976 to mourn 73 dead, all victims of the Cubana airline bombing.
Cuban President Fidel Castro blamed the United States and accused Cuban-born Luis Posada Carriles of masterminding the attack. Castro also alleges Posada, a former CIA operative and fierce Castro opponent, was behind a string of Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.
The 79-year old Posada is also wanted in Venezuela. He escaped from prison there while awaiting a second trial for the airliner bombing. He's a naturalized Venezuelan citizen.
Posada has repeatedly denied any connections with the 1976 bombing.
LUIS POSADA CARRILES, Former CIA Operative (through translator):
The act of the downing of that airplane is an act in which I did not have any participation. I want to repeat again that I condemn that act as an abominable act, and I had nothing to do with it.
He was arrested in May 2005 after sneaking into the United States from Mexico, after he completed a prison sentence in Panama for a plot to kill Castro. Posada was charged with immigration fraud, not acts of terrorism, and that sparked protests across Cuba.
Last month, he was released on bail. Yesterday, a federal judge in Texas threw out the immigration charges against him.
For weeks, Cubans protested against Posada's release. His picture is plastered on billboards alongside President Bush, labeling him an assassin. Posada was also attacked in the Cuban media, for example, on this TV talk show by the editor of a Cuban newspaper.
ROGELIO POLANCO FUENTES, "Juventud Rebelde" (through translator): … the government of the United States, the Bush administration and its cronies, have not prosecuted Posada Carriles as what he is: a terrorist.