EL PASO, Texas – A judge set to hear testimony on whether an anti-Castro militant accused of orchestrating the deadly bombing of a Cuban jetliner should be deported has said he would consider whether the man ever helped commit terrorist acts.
Luis Posada Carriles' (search) hearing, expected to last a week, was set to begin Monday afternoon. A group of protesters demanding his deportation planned to gather in front of the federal immigration detention center before the start of the hearing.
Posada, who is Cuban, is being held on charges that he sneaked into the United States through Mexico in March. He was arrested in Miami in May.
At issue in the hearing is whether the one-time CIA operative should be granted asylum in the United States despite requests by the Venezuelan government that he be deported to that country.
Venezuelan officials have alleged that Posada, an ex-Venezuelan security official, was in Caracas when he plotted the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that crashed off the coast of Barbados (search), killing 73 people.
A recently declassified CIA document quotes an unnamed former Venezuelan official saying that shortly before the bombing Posada was heard to say that he and others "are going to hit a Cuban airplane."
Posada, 77 and ailing, has denied any involvement in the bombing.
CIA documents also show the spy agency trained Posada in 1961 to participate in the failed Bay of Pigs (search) invasion of Cuba. Immigration Judge William Abbott last month asked lawyers in the case to prepare briefs on whether the invasion was a terrorist act.
The judge said he would also consider whether Posada had ever provided material support for acts of terror as part of the case.
Posada's lawyers have said he did not participate in the failed attempt to topple Fidel Castro's communist government.
Posada's detention and the ongoing court proceedings have sparked international outrage, with governments from Cuba to South America demanding his deportation so he can be tried in the bombing.
He was acquitted by a Venezuelan military court but that decision was later thrown out when it was decided that he should be tried in a civilian court. He escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 before the trial had been completed.