EL PASO, Texas – A Cuban militant accused of plotting a 1976 jetliner bombing that killed 73 people cannot be deported to Venezuela, an immigration judge has ruled.
Luis Posada Carriles (search), who has denied that he planned the bombing, claims he would be tortured if sent to Venezuela, where he is a naturalized citizen and once served as a CIA operative.
In a written ruling Monday, Judge William L. Abbott (search) cited conventions against extradition to a country if a person were likely to face torture there.
Venezuelan officials have said Posada was in Caracas when he planned the bombing and have asked the State Department for his extradition. They say there is no evidence their government would torture him.
"Rather than proceeding with the extradition of this self-confessed terrorist to stand trial for murder in Caracas, the U.S. government has instead turned the case into a minor immigration matter," the Venezuelan embassy said in a statement Monday before the judge's ruling was announced.
Posada is accused of illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico in March. He was arrested in Miami in May and is being held in a federal detention center in El Paso.
The U.S. government previously agreed with Posada's lawyers that he should not be sent back to Cuba, where he was born. The judge did not rule out the possibility he could be sent to another country.
An Immigration and Customs (search) spokeswoman said Posada would remain jailed for at least 90 days while the agency reviews the case.
Matthew Archambeault, Posada's attorney, said Tuesday that he and his client were pleased with the ruling. He also said he was confident the government would not try to send Posada to a third country that may send him to Venezuela or Cuba.