Panama reopens investigation regarding Posada’s illegal release
Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 11:13 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
On April 20, 2004, Posada Carriles was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment by José Ho, the fifth circuit criminal judge, for jeopardizing public safety and falsifying documents.
Among those implicated in the case are: Arnulfo Escalona, former minister of government and justice; Casto Amor Ramos, chief of the National Police; Ilka Barés, former migration director; and Arnulfo Escobar and Javier Tapia.
Barés is also to be called to testify along with the former director of Concepción Corro Penitentiary System, who joyfully organized exhibitions of Posada’s "paintings," which were attended by a "thrilled" Moscoso.
The Panamanian 12th Circuit Criminal Court has authorized an extension of the trials, due to ample evidence of the "irregular release" of Posada and his accomplices Guillermo Novo, Gaspar Jiménez and Pedro Remón. The latter three flew to the United States without any interference at all from U.S. immigration authorities or the FBI, while Posada remained in Honduras on a U.S. passport.
Posada and his buddies were captured in November 2000, after President Fidel Castro exposed a plot to assassinate him during his stay in Panama to participate in the 10th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Judge Ho also sentenced Jiménez to eight years in prison, and Novo and Remón to seven for illicit association for criminal activities and possession of explosives.
THEY BOUGHT OFF EVERYONE
However, August 26, 2004, at 4:30 in the morning, the four terrorists were released from the El Renacer prison in a spectacular operation in which Barés, former chief of the National Police, opened the criminals’ cells inside the prison without notifying its director, Ricardo Apú.
From the prison, located some 40 kilometers southeast of the capital, Posada and his accomplices were transferred, hooded, to the local Albrook airport.
There they boarded a plane to Tocumen International Airport where two planes were awaiting them, both chartered from Miami and paid for by Madrid-Miami multi-millionaire Leopoldo Fernández Pujals; Jorge Mas Santos, head of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF); Santiago Alvarez, and various well-known members of the Cuban Liberty Council.
With the blessing of the U.S. authorities, Santiago Alvarez had been directing a fundraising campaign in Miami to purchase the release of the four terrorists. Meanwhile, Mireya Moscoso’s administration denied the existence of such a plan until, on August 26, just hours before stepping down from the presidency, she signed the pardon that allowed the four assassins to resume their activities.
The abovementioned recording had been obtained by Panamanian television thanks to the investigation undertaken at the time by the Special Superior Prosecutor Arquímedes Sáez, who tried to establish criminal responsibilities in the illegal proceedings. Recall that Sáez was the attorney who won the four terrorists’ original conviction.
FOND FAREWELL FOR THE CRIMINALS
The video, played on national Panamanian television channels, showed the fond farewell given to Posada Carriles and his accomplices Gaspar Jiménez, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remón, in which Barés and his accomplices embraced the criminals, exchanged documents, and shared desserts and coffee.
Later it was revealed that those individuals who left the country did not appear on the airport’s passenger lists. Nor do copies of their boarding passes exist.
Prosecutor Mercedes De León has now ordered investigatory proceedings and tests of various documentary evidence to establish other facts related to the participation of those implicated.
Among other personalities, jurist Silvio Guerra has described the release of Posada an "aberration." Student and labor groups in Panama have also denounced the pardon.
In the months preceding Posada’s release, documents published by the Rebelión website affirmed that the maneuver was negotiated in Miami by Ruby Moscoso, Mireya Moscoso’s sister, for a sum of $4 million.
It has also been revealed that Posada Carriles used false documents, facilitated by the U.S. embassy in Panama, to leave the country. It was the narco-lawyer Rogelio Cruz who informed Barés that Posada possessed documents to "exit Panama with no problem at all."
According to Rebelión, in August 2002 a U.S. American named John visited the prisoners. Barés put a car and a police driver at the service of John, who "went in and out of the prison without having to ask permission," as he did at the Police station and the U.S. embassy.
Two directors of the Cuban-American National Foundation, José Francisco "Pepe" Hernández Calvo and Alberto Hernández Sarduy, traveled to El Salvador in the first week of August 2000 to meet with Posada. Gaspar Jiménez later traveled to that country to firm up details of the plot to assassinate Fidel in Panama.
In that meeting, Posada indicated that he had chosen some potential accomplices and named Antonio "Tony" Iglesias Pons, Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriña, Guillermo Novo Sampoll and Pedro Remón.
Santiago Alvarez and one accomplice, Osvaldo Mitat — who repeatedly appeared in Panama during Posada’s trial and reappeared aboard the Santrina shrimper when Posada illegally entered the United States — is soon to appear before a Florida court on charges of illegal possession of weapons.
The investigation by the Panamanian anti-corruption prosecutor could lift a corner of the veil that surrounds this case in which Miami extremists obtained the help of then senior U.S. government officials Colin Powell and Otto Reich, thanks to their links to the Bush clan.