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Viewing cable 04PANAMA672, FATE OF ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN AMERICANS IN THE HANDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04PANAMA672 2004-03-22 20:38 2011-05-29 00:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
NCLAS PANAMA 000672 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR CA/OCS IAN GRAY, WHA/CEN, WHA/CCA 
 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: CASC CJAN SNAR PHUM CU PM NOVO GUILLERMO REMON PEDRO JIMENEZ GASPAR CONSULAR AFFAIRS
SUBJECT:  FATE OF ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN AMERICANS IN THE HANDS 
OF JUDGE 
 
REF: (A) 03 PANAMA 2382 
     (B) 03 PANAMA 2215 
     (C) 03 PANAMA 722 
 
 
1.  NAME:   NOVO, GUILLERMO; REMON, PEDRO; JIMENEZ, GASPAR 
 
 
2.  SEX: MALE 
 
 
3. DOPB: JUNE 08, 1939, CUBA; SEPTEMBER 13, 1944, CUBA; 
OCTOBER 06, 1935, CUBA 
 
 
23. (SBU) REMARKS: After nearly three and one-half years of 
incarceration, prosecutors and defense attorneys completed 
the arguments stage on March 17, and the fate of three Cuban- 
Americans, charged with conspiracy, possession of 
explosives, endangering public security and falsification of 
documents, all in connection with an alleged plot to kill 
Fidel Castro during a November 2000 Ibero-American summit, 
is in the hands of a judge.  Anti-Castro activists Guillermo 
Novo (Sampoll), Pedro Crispin (Remon) and Gaspar Jimenez 
(Escobedo), along with the alleged ringleader, Cuban-born 
Luis Posada Carriles, believed to be stateless, await a 
verdict.  A guilty sentence on these counts could amount to 
between six to fifteen years for the different charges. 
 
 
Alternate Judge Jose Ho Justiniani presided over this trial, 
and promises a verdict within 10-30 days, the normal time 
under law.  However, given the fact that there are about 
21,000 pages of legal information presented, he could ask 
for an additional few weeks to read the evidence.  He 
promises a fair verdict, and did in fact keep the court in 
order, not tolerating any interference or interruptions in 
this drawn out controversial case.  (Note: In fact, the 
planned five-day arguments stage ended earlier than 
expected, on March 17.  Conoffs had planned to attend part 
of the trial on March 18 or March 19.  End note.)  This case 
has long generated passions on both sides: family, friends 
and supporters of these Cuban Americans, and Cuban Embassy 
officials, pro-Castro student and labor groups, as well as 
the families of the victims of these defendants' alleged 
past crimes on the other side, along with reporters and 
spectators. 
 
 
The Public Ministry alleges that the four defendants 
conspired to kill Castro at a University of Panama 
reception.  Several labor and student organizations, 
Castro's hosts for the event, have also filed private 
criminal charges.  The lead prosecutor is aided by several 
private prosecutors, some of who are prominent leftist 
Panamanian attorneys working on a pro bono basis.  The 
prosecution states that the accused have long records of 
violent opposition not only to Castro's regime, but to 
American citizens, ordinary Cubans, and people from other 
countries as well.  Prosecutors linked the defendants to a 
long string of attacks and killings in the past.  In mid 
2002, the most serious charge, attempted murder, was dropped 
due to insufficient evidence.  The nearly three-year wait to 
proceed with trial is not unusual in the extremely slow 
Panamanian judicial system, where over half of all prisoners 
are pre-trial detainees, and often are held under this 
status for more time than the penalty would have been for 
the original crime. 
 
 
The defendants' lead attorney is former Panamanian Attorney 
General Rogelio Cruz, who reportedly also has access to a 
defense committee in Miami.  The Cuban Americans state that 
they were lured to Panama by a false report that a top Cuban 
intelligence officer wanted to defect during Castro's visit 
and needed their assistance, and that once they were here 
Castro's agents planted the explosives on them and tipped 
off Panamanian police.  Cruz expressed confidence about the 
outcome both publicly and privately in a conversation with 
Consular FSN.  He even inquired about Embassy travel 
documents/passports, evidently anticipati