Witness defends reporter in ex-CIA agent's trial

AP News
Posted: Apr 04, 2011 11:07 PM
Witness defends reporter in ex-CIA agent's trial

A former Florida prosecutor on Monday defended the reporting of an ex-New York Times journalist who interviewed an anti-communist militant now on trial for perjury in Texas, though the attorney acknowledged that he's been cited for professional misconduct.

Alberto Milian testified for the U.S. government in its case against onetime CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, who spent most of his life violently opposing communist governments in Latin America. Posada, who was born in Cuba, is now accused of lying during U.S. citizenship hearings in El Paso.

Posada was interviewed by reporter Ann Louise Bardach in 1998 about a series of bombings in Cuba the year before, and she co-wrote several articles for The Times that said Posada took responsibility for planning the blasts. A former U.S. official who testified last month for the defense said Bardach was biased and supported Cuba's government, which Bardach and prosecutors have strongly denied.

Milian also discounted those claims, telling jurors that Bardach accurately portrayed his opinions when she interviewed him for "Cuba Confidential," the first of two books she wrote about Posada, former Cuban President Fidel Castro and the Cuban-American exile community.

"The book is extremely accurate and reflective of the Cuban exile community," said Milian, who fled Cuba as a child with his family. "The opinion of many is that the book is a mirror of the exile community."

Milian also said Castro was "a dictator ... a megalomaniac who has destroyed that country politically, economically and socially."

On cross-examination by Posada attorney Arturo Hernandez, Milian acknowledged that he had been rebuked four times by a Florida appeals court for prosecutorial misconduct, including being punished for describing a jury in one of his cases as "made up of buffoons and lobotomized zombies." He also said he was reprimanded after a fistfight with a defense attorney outside court.

"Is it appropriate to tell a defense attorney you would punch him out?" Hernandez asked.

Milian replied: "If you're being attacked, absolutely."

The 83-year-old Posada, whose anti-communist work was often supported by Washington, is charged with 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud. Prosecutors said he lied to U.S. immigration officials about how he sneaked into the U.S. in 2005, and failed to acknowledge his alleged role in the Cuban bombings that killed an Italian tourist.

Testifying earlier in the case, Bardach said Posada was proud of having carried out the attacks but angry that they received little attention in the U.S. press. She also said Posada told her that the blasts were meant to scare tourists into not coming to Cuba, but not kill anyone.

In response, the defense called Otto Reich, a Cuban-American and fiercely conservative former U.S. assistant secretary of state who testified that he believed Bardach and the Times were biased against Cuban-Americans.

Milian was called as a rebuttal witness to Reich, and said he agreed with Reich on some matters, such as their mutual disdain for Castro. Milan was the last witness in an oft-delayed trial that began Jan. 10.

The judge refused prosecutors' request to allow jurors to hear about Milian's father Emilio, a Cuban journalist who opposed communism and led his family into exile after Castro took power. The elder Milian became a radio host in Miami and called for Cuban-Americans to stop using violence to oppose Castro. His legs were amputated after a bomb exploded under his car in 1976, and he died in 2001.

Without jurors present, assistant U.S. attorney Timothy Reardon said the story would show the violent anti-Castro sentiment held by some people in the Cuban-American exile community _ many of whom continue to celebrate Posada as a hero. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone ruled that the story could bias the jury since it involved a bombing unrelated to the 1997 Cuban blasts.

Posada, a CIA agent until 1976, participated indirectly in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He later served as head of the Venezuelan government's intelligence service and was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison while still facing trial.

Posada helped Washington support the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s, then in 2000, he was imprisoned in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Castro during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004 and turned up in the U.S. the following March.

After being held in immigration detention centers for about two years, Posada was released in 2007 and has been living in Miami.