Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is not eligible for asylum in the United States but should not be sent back to Cuba, a lawyer for the U.S. government told a judge in the opening day of the man's deportation hearing.
Carriles requested asylum after being arrested in May on charges that he sneaked into the country illegally through Mexico. He was arrested in Miami.
Lead government attorney Gina Garrett-Jackson told the judge Monday that federal officials had not yet decided if they would oppose Posada's deportation to Venezuela, where he has been accused of orchestrating the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuba jetliner.
She cited concerns about torture in opposing his potential deportation to Cuba.
A number of governments that had citizens aboard the jetliner have demanded the deportation of the one-time CIA operative. Venezuela's government has requested that the 77-year-old Posada be sent back to that country to stand trial on charges accusing him of plotting the bombing while in Caracas.
A Venezuelan lawyer is expected to be the first witness on the stand when the hearing resumes Tuesday. Attorneys in the case have not said what the lawyer will testify about.
Posada, who is Cuban, has denied any involvement in the bombing, which killed 73 people when it crashed off the coast of the Barbados. He also has declined to name a country he would prefer to be deported to if his request for asylum is denied.
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."
CIA documents show the spy agency trained Posada in 1961 to participate in the Bay of Pigs invasion. An immigration judge last month asked lawyers in the case to prepare briefs on whether the invasion was a terrorist act.
Posada's lawyers have said he did not participate in the failed attempt to topple Fidel Castro's communist government.
A Venezuelan military court acquitted him, 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.
The chief of the Organization of American States said Monday that the U.S. should extradite Posada if there is evidence of links to the 1976 bombing.
"If evidence against him exists in Venezuela, extradition must proceed," OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza was quoted by the AP as saying. "He should be extradited to Venezuela to face justice."
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