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Cuban Militant Says Trial A Bitter Pill

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(Source: CBS4)

(Source: CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBS4) – An elderly ex-CIA operative and longtime Fidel Castro foe spoke to reporters Wednesday for the first time since being acquitted on federal terrorism-related charges following an 11-week trial.

Luis Posada Carriles said Wednesday his recent El Paso, Texas, trial was a bitter pill to swallow.

The 83 year-old Cuban militant was accused of lying to authorities about his involvement in a string of 1997 Havana bombings, which killed an Italian tourist and injured 12 others. His trial featured a seemingly endless parade of 24 witnesses, and federal prosecutors who meticulously presented the U.S. government’s case against him. Yet it took the Texas jury barely three hours to exonerate Carriles of all 11 counts.

Posada said it was painful to be accused by the United States, a country whose military uniform he once wore and a country which he loves.

Posada also said though he is old, he remains a committed soldier in the Cuban struggle and hopes to peacefully reintegrate himself into the Miami Cuban exile community.

Posada spent much of his life working to destabilize communist governments throughout Latin America and was often supported by Washington. He is Public Enemy No. 1 in his homeland, and even considered Fidel Castro’s personal nemesis.

Posada participated indirectly in the Bay of Pigs invasion and was a CIA operative until 1976. That same year, he moved to Venezuela and was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. But he was acquitted by a military tribunal, then escaped from prison while still facing a civilian trial.

In the 1980s, Posada helped the U.S. funnel support to Nicaraguan Contra rebels, and in 2000, was arrested in Panama amid a plot to kill Castro during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004.

Posada sneaked into the U.S. the following March and underwent naturalization hearings in El Paso. He was placed in immigration detention and accused of lying while under oath during those proceedings about how he reached U.S. soil, facing immigration fraud and perjury charges when his first trial opened in El Paso in 2007.

But U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone freed Posada and threw that case out, chastising the government for using Posada’s hearing as a pretext to build a criminal case against him.

Her decision was overturned on appeal, however, and the case returned to Cardone’s court.

Prosecutors added four additional charges, three of them obstruction, alleging that Posada further lied during the immigration hearings about masterminding of a wave of 1997 bombings at Cuban tourist sites that killed an Italian tourist and wounded about a dozen other people.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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