WITH the objective of keeping our people updated on events related to the legal process against Luis Posada Carriles and other terrorists of Cuban origin detained in Panama in November 2000 while planning to assassinate our president, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to offer information on what has happened since April 20, when the court that tried them found them guilty and handed down prison terms of 8 years to Luis Posada Carriles and Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, and 7 years to Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo Sampol.
This period has been characterized by continuous attempts by attorney Rogelio Cruz, the terrorists’ defense lawyer, to hinder the legal process, above all the appeal brought by the prosecuting attorneys, who represent workers, students and indigenous organizations, hundreds of whose members would have perished if the planned act of terrorism had been carried out.
The prosecuting lawyers rightly believe that while the court found the above-mentioned terrorists guilty, the sentences handed down to them did not match the gravity of the crimes committed. The presiding judge disallowed the charge of illegal association to commit a crime, and above all, that of possession of explosives, which was not considered as a separate crime in keeping with Special Law 53, which the Republic of Panama passed in 1995 in response to its ratification of the International Convention on Terrorism using Bombs.
The correct employment of these charges and the appropriate legislation would have resulted in longer sentences for the terrorists, which could be anticipated as at least 12 years’ imprisonment.
For his part, attorney Rogelio Cruz filed a habeas corpus appeal for the accused’ release before the above-mentioned Superior Court, using the argument that they have been in prison since November 17 of 2000, which is when they were arrested after the timely charge brought by our president. However, the application was denied last week, given its inadmissibility.
In addition, Mr. Cruz has also filed an appeal before José Hoo Justiniani, who presided over the recent trial of the terrorists, requesting a modification of the precautionary measure imposed on his clients; in other words, asking that they be released from prison and allowed to await the final result of the appeals process under house arrest.
It is expected that Judge Hoo Justiniani will issue a ruling shortly on that appeal.
It should be evident to our people and international public opinion that if these terrorists serving sentences in Panama are allowed to leave prison, that would create the conditions for their escape, something that is well within the experience of Luis Posada Carriles and Gaspar Jiménez Escobedo, given that both of them, at given times, have escaped from prisons in Venezuela and Mexico, respectively.
Faced with this situation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently delivered a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Panama, alerting it to an escape plan that could be in preparation in conspiracy with elements of the terrorist mafia of Cuban origin based in the United States.
As part of this escape plan, about which our government has advised the Panamanian government on many occasions, terrorist Luis Posada Carriles began once again to simulate illness and pains that would prompt his transferal to Panamanian hospital facilities outside the prison in which he is being held, to create the conditions that would enable him to execute the above-mentioned plan.
From the moment of their detention, the terrorists have enjoyed privileges and special conditions that have enabled them to receive a large number of visits and financial resources, which they are utilizing in an attempt to bribe prison officers as support in an eventual escape. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly warned the Panamanian authorities about this delicate issue.
Their visitors have included Nelsy Ignacio Castro Matos and Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriña, notorious terrorists of Cuban origin based in the United States and with close ties to terrorist organizations in Miami. Our government has repeatedly requested the Panamanian authorities to detain them for acts of terrorism committed against our country.
The former has even carried out a tour of Central American countries, during which he took steps to ensure that Luis Posada Carriles may enter one of those countries after his escape from detention in Panama.
For their part, the Panamanian authorities have guaranteed the Cuban Embassy in Panama that they will redouble their vigilance with respect to these dangerous terrorists to prevent them from carrying out their escape plans.
These are the jost recent events related to a process that – from the outset – has been characterized by highly unusual circumstances, including the fact that the Panamanian judge who presided over the preliminary hearing against the terrorists in September last year declared himself unable to continue immediately after that hearing ended.
The process has also been characterized by continuous maneuvers and threats on the part of the defense lawyers, who, demonstrating an absolute lack of ethics and employing shady schemes, have more than once attempted to violate Panamanian legislation.
The Ministry of Foreign Relations expresses – as it has so indicated to the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – its confidence that the government of President Mireya joscoso will not adopt any measure which would permit the release of the terrorists before her mandate ends on September 1.
Considering the extreme sensitivity that this process signifies for our people, particularly the families of the victims of these notorious terrorists, the Ministry of Foreign Relations will keep our people duly informed.
Havana — July 15, 2004