Friday, January 22, 2010

Texas judge to accused bomber: You're not fooling me

A billboard in Havana

A Texas judge on Friday denied defense lawyers' motion to throw out one of two perjury charges against Luis Posada Carriles.
Prosecutors accused Posada Carriles of lying to an immigration officer who questioned him on Aug. 30, 2005, in El Paso.
The officer asked Posada Carriles if he had "solicited" the help of others to bomb hotels in Havana in 1997. The defendant said:
I am saying that is not true.
It's pure word play. Posada Carriles' lawyers aren't admitting or denying involvement in the bombings, which killed one man. They're simply saying the defendant never "solicited" anyone. So Posada Carriles was telling the truth, they say, when he said the statement wasn't true.
But U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cordone did not buy that argument, saying Posada Carriles was clearly answering the question and denying involvement in the bombings.
It would appear, then, that prosecutors must prove that Posada Carriles was involved in the bombings to be able to prove he lied under oath. That doesn't seem like an easy proposition.
The August hearing was held to decide if Posada Carriles should be removed from the country or granted asylum.
U.S. officials contend he lied about his involvement in the 1997 bombings and about arranging for Salvadoran Raul Cruz Leon to transport explosives to Cuba. That led to the two perjury counts.
American authorities also accuse Posada Carriles of obstruction, saying he has made "false, evasive and misleading testimony," and has falsely claimed he didn't understand or remember to try to mislead officials.
As part of his defense strategy, Posada Carriles has tried seize upon imprecise translations of questions to prove that he hasn't lied.
But I don't think this slippery old fox is quite that dumb. And the judge apparently didn't think so, either, in denying his motion today.
I think Posada Carriles probably knows by now that the more he testifies under oath, the greater the possibility he'll be nabbed for perjury.
That's likely why he dropped his bid to become a U.S. citizen in August 2005 and undergo further questioning under oath.
He remains in a tight spot. But it may not be easy for prosecutors, either. They may have to use more than words and unproven accusations to link Posada Carriles to the Havana bombings. They may need evidence.
And it's unclear to me just what proof they have, whether they sought out Cuban officials and whether the most important documents in the case will be disclosed to the public.
The trial is set for March 1 in El Paso. Activists who want Posada Carriles prosecuted for the 1987 crimes and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner say they'll be there to protest.

Posada indictment
Judge Cordone's Jan. 21 denial of motion
33-page court docket showing filings in the case since January 2007
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

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