Trial of Cuban Anti-Castro Militant Luis Posada Carriles Reconvenes in El Paso

The closely watched trial of Luis Posada Carriles, former CIA operative and anti-Fidel Castro militant, resumes on Tuesday with the Department of Homeland Security attorney retaking the stand to face cross examination.

Posada, 82, is facing 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and naturalization fraud, accused of making false statements under oath during immigration interviews in El Paso, after he sneaked into the United States and sought political asylum. Prosecutors say he lied about how he reached American soil and also failed to acknowledge his role in 1997 Cuban hotel bombings.

Miami-based Homeland Security lawyer Gina Garrett-Jackson questioned Posada during those immigration hearings and last week read from transcripts of what was said for the jury. Jurors also heard tapes of the 2005 sessions. Posada said he paid a smuggler to escort him through Mexico and into Texas, but prosecutors maintain he actually sailed from a resort near Cancun to Miami.

Garrett-Jackson was heard pressing Posada about his role in about a dozen bombs that rocked tourist hotels and one restaurant in Havana in 1997, killing Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo. She asked him about 1998 interviews with The New York Times in which he claimed responsibility for the bombs and was quoted as saying they were intended only to "break windows and cause minor damage."

During the immigration hearings, Posada denied involvement and said he didn't know what he was claiming responsibility for during the Times interviews because they were conducted in English, a language he doesn't understand. Past CIA reports on Posada indicate he can speak English.

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Posada was arrested in 2000 in Panama for planning to kill Castro during a regional summit there. Defense attorneys are expected to press Garrett-Jackson on why he was allowed to submit to naturalization hearings if his prior criminal conviction would have made him ineligible for U.S. citizenship.

Posada's attorneys say he "essentially told the truth" during the 2005 immigration hearings. They acknowledge that a shrimp boat converted into a yacht traveled to Mexico and made contact with Posada, but they say the vessel only came to leave him cash to pay a smuggler to get him to U.S. territory. They also say Posada claimed some responsibility in the 1997 hotel bombings as a well-known anti-Castro operative but was not directly involved.

Cuba and Venezuela accuse Posada not only of the hotel bombings but also of plotting an explosion aboard a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. The U.S. has not charged him in either matter, and an immigration judge previously ruled Posada cannot be deported to those countries for fear he could be tortured.

Born in Cuba, Posada worked for the CIA in the early 1960s in Florida and briefly joined the U.S. Army. He later moved to Venezuela and became head of that country's intelligence service until 1974. Posada was acquitted by a military tribunal in the airline bombing but escaped from prison before a government retrial.

He next surfaced in El Salvador, where he worked on the covert Washington-backed program aiding anti-Sandinista, "contra" rebels in Nicaragua. After the failed plot against Castro in 2000, Posada was imprisoned but eventually received a presidential pardon. He then headed to U.S.

Posada has been living in Miami while the immigration case against him proceeds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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