The saga of a former CIA operative, allegedly responsible for engaging in numerous rebel activities against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, continued Tuesday, as the Justice Department filed an appeal to reinstate charges against him that were dismissed earlier this year.
Luis Posada Carriles was indicted in January, not for any militant activities, but for making false statements to immigration agents after he was arrested for allegedly illegally entering the United States in March 2005.
The Justice Department is asking an appeals court to reinstate the indictment of one count of naturalization fraud, and six counts of making false statements.
In May a federal judge dismissed the case against Posada, upholding the defense's claim that audio tapes of his interviews with immigration officials in the case were inaudible, and that there were inaccuracies in some government translations. The judge allowed him to return to Miami under supervised release.
The case is seen as tricky for the U.S. government, since Posada was allegedly trained by the CIA for the United States' failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and then later became the chief of the Venezuelan secret police's surveillance unit.
Additionally, authorities say Posada spearheaded anti-Castro activities, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner flight, which killed 73 passengers onboard. Posada has denied the allegation.
Posada has also been linked to a hotel bombing plot in Havana in 1997, and an attempt to blow up Castro in Panama in 2000, sources say. The alleged former CIA operative was eventually released from a Panamanian jail in 2004 as part of a general amnesty agreement.
The year after his release from Panamanian custody, Posada was arrested by U.S. immigration officials after his alleged illegal entry into the United States in 2005. The case languished in immigration courts, since Posada had applied for political asylum and U.S. citizenship.
The appeal notes that "had this matter gone to trial, the government's evidence would have shown that the defendant obtained a Guatemalan passport, bearing his picture, but a false name, Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez, shortly after his release from custody."
The appeal also notes that, although he filed for asylum on his Customs and Immigration Services application, Posada used several aliases, "but did not acknowledge using the name Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez on the Guatemalan passport."
The government's appeal also asserts that Posada "denied ever having a passport from Guatemala."
Posada is a citizen of both Cuba and Venezuela, but U.S. law prevented him from being deported to a location where he could be tortured or face execution.
The summary of the government's argument for appeal notes that the district court judge erred in suppressing all the statements made during his immigration and naturalization proceedings. "The defendant was charged with giving distinct and unambiguously false answers to distinct questions, and the district court found no fault with the translations of these questions and answers."
Arguing that the district court should not have dismissed all the charges against Posada, the government notes, "The defendant — who by all accounts, has led an extraordinary and controversial life — sought out a benefit from the government, and invoked the requirement for an interview. The defendant ... knew that false statements in an interview might subject him to criminal charges."
Lawyers for Posada will have up to 30 days to file their response. If the case were to be reinstated, Posada could face a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.