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Cablegate: Fate of Anti-Castro Cuban Americans in the Hands

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS PANAMA 000672

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR CA/OCS IAN GRAY, WHA/CEN, WHA/CCA


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC CJAN SNAR PHUM CU PM NOVO GUILLERMO REMON PEDRO JIMENEZ GASPAR CONSULAR AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: FATE OF ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN AMERICANS IN THE HANDS
OF JUDGE

REF: (A) 03 PANAMA 2382
(B) 03 PANAMA 2215
(C) 03 PANAMA 722


1. NAME: NOVO, GUILLERMO; REMON, PEDRO; JIMENEZ, GASPAR


2. SEX: MALE


3. DOPB: JUNE 08, 1939, CUBA; SEPTEMBER 13, 1944, CUBA;
OCTOBER 06, 1935, CUBA


23. (SBU) REMARKS: After nearly three and one-half years of
incarceration, prosecutors and defense attorneys completed
the arguments stage on March 17, and the fate of three Cuban-
Americans, charged with conspiracy, possession of
explosives, endangering public security and falsification of
documents, all in connection with an alleged plot to kill
Fidel Castro during a November 2000 Ibero-American summit,
is in the hands of a judge. Anti-Castro activists Guillermo
Novo (Sampoll), Pedro Crispin (Remon) and Gaspar Jimenez
(Escobedo), along with the alleged ringleader, Cuban-born
Luis Posada Carriles, believed to be stateless, await a
verdict. A guilty sentence on these counts could amount to
between six to fifteen years for the different charges.


Alternate Judge Jose Ho Justiniani presided over this trial,
and promises a verdict within 10-30 days, the normal time
under law. However, given the fact that there are about
21,000 pages of legal information presented, he could ask
for an additional few weeks to read the evidence. He
promises a fair verdict, and did in fact keep the court in
order, not tolerating any interference or interruptions in
this drawn out controversial case. (Note: In fact, the
planned five-day arguments stage ended earlier than
expected, on March 17. Conoffs had planned to attend part
of the trial on March 18 or March 19. End note.) This case
has long generated passions on both sides: family, friends
and supporters of these Cuban Americans, and Cuban Embassy
officials, pro-Castro student and labor groups, as well as
the families of the victims of these defendants' alleged
past crimes on the other side, along with reporters and
spectators.


The Public Ministry alleges that the four defendants
conspired to kill Castro at a University of Panama
reception. Several labor and student organizations,
Castro's hosts for the event, have also filed private
criminal charges. The lead prosecutor is aided by several
private prosecutors, some of who are prominent leftist
Panamanian attorneys working on a pro bono basis. The
prosecution states that the accused have long records of
violent opposition not only to Castro's regime, but to
American citizens, ordinary Cubans, and people from other
countries as well. Prosecutors linked the defendants to a
long string of attacks and killings in the past. In mid
2002, the most serious charge, attempted murder, was dropped
due to insufficient evidence. The nearly three-year wait to
proceed with trial is not unusual in the extremely slow
Panamanian judicial system, where over half of all prisoners
are pre-trial detainees, and often are held under this
status for more time than the penalty would have been for
the original crime.


The defendants' lead attorney is former Panamanian Attorney
General Rogelio Cruz, who reportedly also has access to a
defense committee in Miami. The Cuban Americans state that
they were lured to Panama by a false report that a top Cuban
intelligence officer wanted to defect during Castro's visit
and needed their assistance, and that once they were here
Castro's agents planted the explosives on them and tipped
off Panamanian police. Cruz expressed confidence about the
outcome both publicly and privately in a conversation with
Consular FSN. He even inquired about Embassy travel
documents/passports, evidently anticipati

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