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Agence France Presse

US Lawmaker Asks Bush to Arrest Anti-Castro Bomb Suspect

Agence France Presse staff

WASHINGTON - A US lawmaker on Wednesday called on President George W. Bush to detain the Cuban anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, after a US judge freed the alleged airplane bomber.

"The world will conclude that this administration has a double standard when it comes to fighting terrorism unless President (George W.) Bush takes swift action to detain Posada," said House Democrat Bill Delahunt. 0510 03

Venezuela and Cuba want to try Posada in the 1976 downing of a Cuban airliner, which killed all 73 civilians aboard.

Rather than extradite Posada, a judge in El Paso, Texas dropped felony immigration charges and released him on Tuesday.

US authorities refuse to honor extradition requests from Cuba and Venezuela.

Delahunt's statement was in a letter to Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling Posada "one of the Western Hemisphere's most notorious killers."

Detaining Posada "will prevent him from fleeing the country while the administration determines how and where he can stand trial for his crimes."

Posada's release could be "catastrophic" in US efforts "to rally other nations to fight Al-Qaeda, especially in the Muslim world where some view Osama bin Laden as a similar hero," Delahunt wrote.

Cuba, the only one-party communist regime in the Americas, reacted with anger at the release of the man it calls "the Bin Laden of the hemisphere."

Posada was also sentenced in Panama to eight years in prison for a 2000 bomb plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, but outgoing president Mireya Moscoso pardoned him four years later.

Posada has not been indicted in the United States for any of the attacks, though a grand jury in New Jersey is reportedly investigating his role in a 1997 Havana hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist.

The US government "is protecting international terrorism," said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking in Caracas. He described Posada as "an assassin, a terrorist, a torturer," then asked: "Is this the government that fights against terrorism?"

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro met his Cuban counterpart earlier Wednesday and said his country would again petition for Posada's extradition. Both Cuba and Venezuela hold Bush responsible for Posada's release.

Declassified US documents show that Posada worked for the CIA from 1965 to June 1976. He also reportedly helped the US government ferry supplies to right-wing Contra rebels who waged a bloody campaign to topple the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Nicaragua's foreign ministry on Wednesday also condemned Posada's release, and renewed its own extradition request to try him for "terrorism operations" committed during the 1980s.

And in Peru, a crowd of some 500 people who sympathize with Cuba's regime held a protest at Havana's embassy in Lima to condemn Posada's release.

Copyright © 2007 AFP

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