Venezuela to U.S.: Turn Over Cuban Militant

Venezuela (search) pressed the United States on Friday to turn over Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles (search) for prosecution in a 1976 Cuban airliner bombing, saying "there isn't an excuse of a legal or other nature for not complying."

A "voluminous" file on Posada is being translated into English for U.S. authorities, and his extradition will be requested formally by July 16, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued through the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.

"There isn't an excuse of a legal or other nature for not complying with these obligations," the Spanish-language statement said. "Only in this manner can some credibility be gained in the constant sermon about the fight against terrorism."

The Cuba militant, detained Tuesday in Miami by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (search) agents, was charged Thursday with entering the United States illegally, a move that could lead to his deportation.

Where he might go, however, is a politically sensitive question for the Bush administration.

Venezuela wants custody of Posada because the airliner bombing plot was allegedly hatched there, but U.S. officials have said they won't send anyone to a country believed to be doing Cuba's bidding. Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (search) are close allies.

Posada, 77, is a former CIA operative and bitter opponent of Castro but has denied taking part in the downing of a Cuban jetliner off the coast of Barbados that killed 73 people. Recently declassified FBI documents quote informants as saying Posada was deeply involved in the planning.

He will be held without bail at a federal lockup in El Paso, Texas, for a hearing before an immigration judge June 13, officials said. His attorney, Eduardo Soto, said his client will ask to be released on bail.

Posada believes he should be allowed to stay in the United States, although his lawyer left open the possibility that he would agree to depart for a third country if a friendly nation could be found.

"Everything is on the table," Soto said.

Posada has acknowledged entering the United States secretly through Mexico in mid-March. He was seized Tuesday, shortly after surfacing to meet with reporters.

His lawyer said Posada would "vigorously oppose" deportation. Soto said Posada will claim that he never lost permanent U.S. legal residency, originally gained in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, and that he should be given political asylum in the United States because of his anti-Castro views, his history as a CIA operative and the risk of persecution from both Cuba and Venezuela.

"I believe he is legally in this country now," Soto told reporters.

The lawyer said that it could take months or even years before a final decision is made on Posada's fate. "You could be looking at a two-year process," he said.

The lawyer also said that Posada will ask that the immigration proceedings be moved from Texas to Miami, where Posada has a wife and a 29-year-old son.

Posada was acquitted after two trials in Venezuela, then escaped from a prison there in 1985 while awaiting a prosecutor's appeal. Venezuela has requested his extradition.

Castro has repeatedly renounced Cuba's right to try Posada and has instead argued that he should be turned over to Venezuela or an international tribunal. Castro has branded Posada a terrorist and said the Bush administration would be guilty of a double standard in the war on terrorism if it gave Posada asylum.

Posada has also been linked to a series of 1997 bombings in Cuba that killed an Italian tourist.