At trial of Cuban exile, Venezuela quiet

EL PASO _ Perhaps the most frustrated person in the courtroom the last two weeks at the perjury trial of Luis Posada ...

EL PASO _ Perhaps the most frustrated person in the courtroom the last two weeks at the perjury trial of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban militant and former C.I.A. operative, was the sad-eyed lawyer who represents Venezuela.

For five years, the lawyer, Jos__ Pertierra, has been seeking the extradition of Mr. Posada to stand trial in Venezuela in the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976, which killed everyone on board. But the State Department and the Justice Department have never presented the request to a federal judge.

Instead, the Justice Department is prosecuting Mr. Posada for having lied during two immigration hearings more than five years ago.

_It_s odd to be sitting in a federal court building and listening to testimony not about the extradition of Posada to face murder charges, but instead to listen to testimony about him lying on immigration forms,_ Mr. Pertierra said.

To prove that Mr. Posada committed perjury, prosecutors plan to bring up evidence about bombings at Havana tourist spots in 1997. They say Mr. Posada took credit for those attacks in 1998, then later, under oath, denied that he had organized them.

But the trial is unlikely to shed light on his alleged role in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Oct. 6, 1976. The midair explosion killed 73 people, including teenagers from Cuba_s national fencing team.

A government informer, Carlos Abascal, testifying over five days last week, said he had traveled with Mr. Posada on a shrimp boat from the Yucat__n Peninsula to Miami in 2005, where it landed at a waterfront restaurant, letting the old Cuban exile sneak into the United States. One part of the indictment charges Mr. Posada with lying under oath when he said he crossed through Mexico and entered the country in Brownsville, Tex.

A defense lawyer, Arturo V. Hernandez, attacked Mr. Abascal_s credibility, interrogating him about his history of mental problems and showing records that documented schizophrenic episodes and hallucinations.

Venezuela has been demanding the extradition of Mr. Posada since he popped up in Miami, but the United States has so far rebuffed the request. Last June, the United States said in a diplomatic note that Venezuela had not presented enough evidence to show that the police had _probable cause_ to arrest Mr. Posada for the bombing, Mr. Pertierra said.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on why the United States had not acted on the extradition request. A spokesman for the State Department, Charles Luoma-Overstreet, declined to comment on the diplomatic note.

The United States_ position on Mr. Posada_s extradition was complicated in 2006, when an immigration judge in El Paso ruled that Mr. Posada should be deported but could not be sent back to Venezuela because he would probably face torture there.

American officials say that the immigration judge_s ruling and the perjury trial have tied their hands, but Venezuela has argued that neither should keep a federal judge from hearing the extradition case.

No other country has offered to take Mr. Posada, who is 82, and he has lived in legal limbo in Miami for years. His movements are tracked by federal immigration agents; he wears an ankle monitor.

Mr. Posada was never convicted in the airplane bombing. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 just a few months before a judge reached a verdict for the other three men accused in the plot. He has long insisted that he had nothing to do with it.

But the police in Trinidad and Venezuela said they found evidence tying Mr. Posada to the plot. That evidence is buttressed by declassified documents from the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. showing that American agents received information that Mr. Posada was involved in the bombing, along with a known anti-Castro terrorist, Orlando Bosch _vila.

_U.S. intelligence consistently pointed to Bosch and Posada as the masterminds,_ said Peter Kornbluh, an analyst with the National Security Archive who has assembled most of the declassified documents regarding Mr. Posada_s career.

Both Mr. Bosch and Mr. Posada were arrested in Venezuela after the airplane went down. Mr. Posada escaped disguised as a priest. Mr. Bosch was acquitted in 1987 and, though he had no visa, migrated to the United States. Like Mr. Posada, he was held by immigration authorities until President George Bush gave him an administrative pardon in 1990.

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