TITLE=CUBAN EXILE TRIAL (L-ONLY)
DATELINE=SAN JUAN, PR
INTRO: A federal jury in Puerto Rico on Wednesday
acquitted five Cuban exiles who were on trial for
plotting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The judge dropped the charges on one of the defendants
last week for lack of evidence. As Marty Delfin
reports from San Juan, it was the first time ever the
U-S government has put anyone on trial for conspiring
to kill the Cuban leader.
TEXT: After the verdicts were read, the defendants.
all of them middle-aged men.cried and hugged their
lawyers. One of the accused stood up and saluted the
jury. For the past 14 days, U-S government
prosecutors tried to convince jurors that the five men
conspired three years ago to kill Fidel Castro on the
Venezuelan Island of Margarita. Mr. Castro was in
Venezuela in 1997 to attend the Ibero American summit
of Latin American leaders.
Days before the summit, three of the men on trial were
arrested by U-S authorities after their boat docked in
Puerto Rico. While searching the vessel, U-S customs
agents found two high-powered rifles, night vision
equipment, and ammunition in a secret compartment on
board their boat.
According to testimony given at the trial, one of the
men.Angel Alfonso.told authorities that they were on
their way to murder Fidel Castro.
After a subsequent investigation, government
prosecutors also charged three other men in the
conspiracy including Jose Antonio Llama who is a board
member of the National Cuban American Foundation.
It was a delicate case for the U-S government. Many
in the Cuban exile community saw the trial as a
contradictory proceeding in view of the U-S
governments past support of clandestine operation
against Castro's own government.
But defense lawyers argued that their clients were on
their way to Margarita Island to demonstrate against
Castro and rescue any defectors from the Cuban
During the trial, they appealed to the jury to
understand why Cuban exiles take their cause
seriously. One juror said afterwards he wanted to
send a message to the Cuban community in acquitting
the defendants not to give up hope that one day they
will be able to return to their homeland. Besides Mr.
Alfonso and Mr. Llama, those acquitted were Jose
Rodriguez Sosa, Angel Hernandez Rojo and Francisco
Secundino Cordova. The five defendants faced more
than 30 years in prison if they were found guilty on
While he said he respected the jury's decision,
Federal Prosecutor Scott Glick said, the U-S
government will continue to charge anyone who
conspires to assassinate any world leader. (Signed)
08-Dec-1999 23:32 PM EDT (09-Dec-1999 0432 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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