A judge set to hear testimony on whether an anti-Castro militant accused of orchestrating the deadly bombing of a Cuban airplane would be deported said he would consider if the man helped commit terrorist acts.
Luis Posada Carriles' 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 opening of the hearing.
Posada is being held at the center on charges that he sneaked into the country 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 government of Venezuela 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, killing 73 people.
Posada, 77 and ailing, has denied any involvement in the bombing.
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'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 on charges related to the jetliner bombing.
Posada was acquitted by a Venezuelan military court but that decision was later thrown out when it was decided that Posada and others accused in the bombing should face a civilian court. He escaped from jail there in 1985 before the civilian trial had been completed.
He was trained by the CIA in 1961 to participate in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Immigration Judge William L. Abbott last month asked lawyers in the case to prepare briefs ton whether that invasion was a terrorist act.
Abbott has said he would consider whether Posada had ever provided material support for acts of terror as part of the deportation case.
Posada's lawyers have said he did not participate in the failed try to topple Fidel Castro's communist government, the AP reports.