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Notorious CIA operative indicted in Texas for crimes


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday January 11, 2007

Washington- A notorious Cuban exile and one-time CIA operative sought by Cuba and Venezuela on terrorism charges was indicted Thursday in Texas on seven charges of naturalization violations, the US Department of Justice said. Luis Posada Carriles, 78, faces up to 40 years in US jail if found guilty on the charges, which include false statements on an application for becoming a naturalized citizen and false statements under oath during a 2006 interview with Department of Homeland Security officials.

A federal grand jury in western Texas indicted Posada, who was expected to have his first court appearance next week before a federal judge in Texas.

When he first re-entered the US illegally in 2005, Posada requested political asylum and was detained for immigration violations. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out the investigation.

Venezuela has a long standing request for extradition of Posada so he can be tried for plotting the bombing attack against a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in 1976. Venezuela alleges Posada planned the attack from Venezuela.

The indictment in Texas moved Posada Carriles' case into the criminal justice arena, and appeared to provide a way out for immigration officials who in early 2006 said the US intended to move him to a third country.

A US judge ruled in 2005 that he could not be extradited to Venezuela or Cuba because he could face torture there.

If found guilty on the criminal charges, Posada "would face jail time in the United States," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice in Washington.

Posada has spent the past decade seeking refuge from a trail of charges across Latin America, stemming from his earliest involvment as an anti-Cuban CIA operative in the 1960s. He was last serving an eight-year sentence in Panama for plotting to kill Castro during an international summit in 2000. After his controversial pardon by the Panamanian government, he went into hiding.

The former CIA operative has confessed to carrying out attacks on tourist facilities in Cuba in 1997 that left at least one person dead. But he denies any involvement in the plane bombing.

Thursday's indictment charges that Posada lied about how he arrived in the US in 2005. He told officials he had travelled overland from Honduras through Belize and Mexico into Texas, when in fact he entered the US "by sea aboard the motor vessel 'Santrina', a statement by justice officials said.

Two other men, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, were charged with failing to testify before the Texas grand jury in the case.

Posada's resurfacing in the US in 2005 provoked massive million- strong demonstration in Cuba for his extradition. The fugitive flaunted his illegal entry by holding a press conference in Florida in May 2005. Sixteen minutes later, he was picked up by US federal authorities.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has charged that the US is supporting terrorism by giving safe harbour to Posada.

The exile Cuban has been connected by recently declassified FBI and CIA documents as the "employer" of two men believed to have bombed the Cuban plane in 1976.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency