Cablegate: Panama Court Sentences Anti-Castro Conspirators,

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000925



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/21/2014

REF: A. 03 PANAMA 0722
B. 03 PANAMA 2382
C. PANAMA 0672

Classified By: Ambassador Linda E. Watt for Reasons 1.5 (B and D)

Six Sentences
1. (SBU) On April 20, Panama's Fifth Penal Court convicted
six anti-Castro conspirators, including three AmCits, for
endangering public safety and sentenced them to seven and
eight-year jail terms for a November 2000 plot to kill Fidel
Castro. (See Refs A and B.) Luis Posada Carriles, currently
stateless, and AmCit Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo were sentenced
to eight years; one year was tacked on for carrying
fraudulent passports. AmCits Pedro Crispin Remon and
Guillermo Novo Sampoll, and Cuban-Panamanian Cesar Matamores
were sentenced to seven years, while Panamanian Jose Hurtado
Viceros received four years. All six men have been in prison
for around 40 months and will receive credit for time served.
(See Ref. C) The Court acquitted the defendants of
possession of explosives. Attempted murder charges had been
dropped early on. The Venezuelan government continues to
publicly seek the extradition of the stateless Posada
Carriles, who was convicted and imprisoned for the 1976
bombing of a Cuban airliner which killed 73 people. (See
Refs A and B for background on this case.)

Public Statements Slowly Emerging

2. (SBU) The court and, initially, the attorneys have been
tight-lipped, despite Embassy's efforts to learn more about
the judge's decision. On April 21, Rogelio Cruz (lead
defense attorney) spoke with the Embassy's American Citizen
Services (ACS) staff and said an appeal will be filed within
10-15 days. Cruz claimed the convictions were "poorly
supported" and the forthcoming publication of the judge's
decision will demonstrate this. Cruz expressed appreciation
on behalf of the defense team and the defendants for the
Embassy's calls and follow-up on this case. La Prensa quoted
the Cuban Ambassador to Panama, who said the sentence
"proves" the prisoners are terrorists.

No Extradition for Posada Carriles

3. (C) At a April 20 meeting with the POL Counselor, Minister
of Government and Justice Arnulfo Escalona said that a formal
GOP decision to deny Venezuela's extradition request for
Posada Carriles would be forthcoming soon. Escalona added
that the GOP is considering whether to release Posada
Carriles and the others when they finish two-thirds of their
terms (including time served) and whether to permit Posada
Carriles, who entered Panama on a fraudulent Salvadoran
passport and is currently stateless, to remain in Panama
after his release. (Note: The possibility of a prison
transfer to a US prison under our bilateral prisoner exchange
agreement for the Cuban-Americans was not discussed but
remains a potential option.) Escalona hinted that he would
like to discuss options with the USG after the May 2
Panamanian election.


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