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Judge says Cuban militant can be freed on bond

A federal judge on Friday ordered Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles set free on bail pending trial on charges he lied in a bid to become a U.S. citizen, and the government immediately asked that he remain jailed.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday ordered Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles set free on bail pending trial on charges he lied in a bid to become a U.S. citizen, and the government immediately asked that he remain jailed.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone didn't immediately rule on federal prosecutors' request, in which they argued Posada should remain in custody while they determine if they can appeal the decision.

Posada, 79, is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela on charges that he was in Caracas when he plotted the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner. He also has been ordered deported by a federal immigration judge, though U.S. authorities have been unable to find a country willing to accept the former CIA operative.

Felipe D.J. Millan, Posada's El Paso attorney, said Posada remained jailed in Otero County, N.M. Friday afternoon. Millan said he did not know when Posada could be released, but said it would likely not happen over the holiday weekend.

"He deserves to go home and live in peace and enjoy his family," Millan said. "Obviously we'll do whatever we need to do to post bond. We'll try to get him as soon as possible."

U.S. wants man kept behind bars
Shortly after Cardone's order was issued, lawyers for the Justice Department filed a two-page motion asking to keep Posada jailed for at least another week while the government reviews appeal options and the conditions of release outlined in the order.

In Cardone's nine-page ruling, she ordered that Posada post a $250,000 cash or corporate surety bond. His wife and two adult children must post a $100,000 appearance and compliance signature bond and agree to take responsibility of Posada upon his release. The judge also ordered that Posada, a former CIA operative who had a role in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, live with his wife in Miami under 24-hour home confinement and submit to electronic monitoring.

In its motion, the government argued that because of the timing of the order, about 2 p.m. Eastern time on Good Friday, Posada could be released before government lawyers had time to decide and get permission to file an appeal.

"The United States needs time to consider the adequacy of these conditions and whether to appeal this court's ruling," the prosecutors wrote.

Fears for his safety
Posada has been jailed since May 2005, when he was arrested on an immigration violation after telling authorities that he sneaked across the Mexican border into Texas. An immigration judge later ordered that he be deported, but ruled that Posada could not be sent to Cuba, where he was born, or Venezuela, where he is a naturalized citizen, because of fears that he could be tortured.

Posada has been in a legal fight with the Justice Department to be set free from an immigration jail pending his deportation. He filed suit last year, asking a federal judge to force the government to set him free while the government continued to look for a country that would take him.

Several countries, including Mexico, have refused him entry and a federal magistrate judge in El Paso ruled last year that government had until Feb. 1 to justify his continued imprisonment.

Trial set to begin in May
After his indictment in January on charges that he lied in interviews and on an application to become a naturalized citizen, Posada was arrested and moved from an immigration jail in El Paso to another facility in New Mexico. U.S. immigration authorities then successfully argued that Posada's legal fight to be freed by immigration authorities was moot since he was no longer in their custody.

It was unclear Friday what impact Posada's deportation order would have on Cardone's order.

"The question is, if he is released from Otero County jail, what will immigration do," Millan said.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman in El Paso issued a single sentence statement on the case Friday afternoon.

"We will be evaluating the judge's decision and will take appropriate action," ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa wrote.

His criminal trial is scheduled to begin May 11.