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The defendant’s name was barely mentioned in court in today. Instead, Judge Kathleen Cardone allowed the defense attorney to put the New York Times, its journalist Ann Louise Bardach and the Republic of Cuba on trial. Last week, after 11 grueling weeks and 23 witnesses, the Government rested. The prosecution’s final witness was Ann Louise Bardach. Now it is the defense’s turn to present its case-in-chief.
A pair of swinging doors separates the well of the court from the seating area for the press and invited guests. They swing four or five times every time someone pushes on them to pass through. This afternoon, after the defense attorney for Luis Posada Carriles finished his cross-examination of the journalist Ann Louise Bardach, he barreled through the doors with such force that they swung 12 times altogether. I know because I counted.
It’s one thing for an attorney to zealously defend his client’s interests and quite another for him to embrace the defendant’s premises. An attorney is most effective, when he keeps a certain critical distance. Here in El Paso, Luis Posada Carriles’ attorney has adopted his client’s cause as his own-thus coloring his cross-examination to the point of silliness. His nutty questions about Cuba are pregnant with the false postulates of certain exiles in Little Havana who haven’t set foot on Cuban soil in more than five decades. It’s evident that the Miami defense attorney hasn’t done his research.
Winter said its goodbyes to El Paso last night. Spring is here. But the equinox doesn’t bring flowers to El Paso: only dust, lots of dust. Forty-mile-an-hour winds blew through this border town this afternoon. Leaving the courthouse exhausted from an afternoon of cross-examination by Luis Posada Carriles’ attorney, Ann Louise Bardach confronted the storms from the Chihuahuan Desert that blew sand in her eyes as she leaned into the wind to return to her hotel.
The lawyer representing Luis Posada Carriles has a reputation for aggressive and effective cross-examination. Today his job was to question one of the case’s star witnesses: Ann Louise Bardach. Anticipating the moment, some of the jurors leaned forward when Arturo Hernández approached the witness stand this morning. The African-American in the second row exchanged a knowing look with the Chicano on his right, who was rubbing his hands together with the look of a child about to devour an ice-cream cone.
Using the testimony of the journalist Ann Louise Bardach, the Government was able to introduce the Solo fax as evidence against Luis Posada Carriles. In the fax, the defendant alerts his co-conspirators to the money orders they would receive from New Jersey to carry out the bombing campaign in Havana in 1997.
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Today the jury in El Paso heard Luis Posada Carriles take responsibility for the bombings in Havana in 1997. He did so in a tape recording made in June of 1998 by New York Times journalist Ann Louise Bardach when she interviewed him in Aruba.Prosecutor Timothy J. Reardon, III, played clips from the recording for the jury, and Bardach identified the voices and commented on the statements made by Posada Carriles.
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Yesterday was a rough day. Today the witness reentered the courtroom with melancholy eyes, a slow step, and his shoulders sagging from the weight of his life’s burdens. But the Government did not have to force Tony Álvarez to come to El Paso to testify against Luis Posada Carriles. He offered of his own free will, just as he did 15 years ago, when he warned Guatemalan intelligence and the FBI that Posada Carriles was involved in a terrorist conspiracy to place bombs in the most famous hotels and restaurants in Cuba.
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Although the Justice Department called María Elvira Salazar to the witness stand, she testified in favor of Posada Carriles. Government prosecutors wanted Salazar to corroborate Posada Carriles’ admissions that he was behind a sequence of bombings in Havana in 1997, one of which killed a thirty-two-year-old Italian businessman, Fabio Di Celmo. Salazar interviewed Posada Carriles for a Miami television station, and he answered her question about the bombings by claiming responsibility.
Although the Government only indicted Posada Carriles for lying, one of the lies is about a murder. Under oath, he denied being behind the killing in Havana of a 32-year-old Italian businessman named Fabio Di Celmo on September 4, 1997. The jury in El Paso has already heard a medical examiner state that Di Celmo’s death was a homicide resulting from a bomb planted in the lobby of Havana’s Copacabana Hotel. The bomb hurled a piece of shrapnel that lodged in Di Celmo’s neck and severed his jugular vein. Today the jury will hear from an eyewitness.
An FBI agent today corroborated in El Paso’s federal court that Cuba has been the target of terrorism financed from the United States. The agent revealed details about the money trail that funded a campaign of terror against Cuba in 1997 and stretched from New Jersey to Cuba by way of Guatemala and El Salvador. The conspiracy was masterminded by Luis Posada Carriles and carried out by his co-conspirators.