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Cubans' Testimony Delayed In Trial Of Ex-CIA Agent

EL PASO, Texas (AP) - A Cuban medical examiner and an Interior Ministry investigator set to take the stand in the perjury trial of an elderly ex-CIA agent and anti-communist militant had their testimonies delayed at least one day after the defense raised a series of complex objections Tuesday.

Luis Posada Carriles, 82, is accused of lying to federal authorities during immigration hearings in El Paso and faces 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud. Prosecutors say he made false statements about how he sneaked into the U.S. in March 2005, and also failed to acknowledge planning a series of bombings of Havana hotels and a top tourist restaurant between April and October 1997 that killed an Italian national and wounded about a dozen other people.

Cuban medical examiner Ilena Vizcano Dime and Lt. Col. Roberto Hernandez Caballero of the island's powerful Interior Ministry are ready to testify about the death of Fabio di Celmo, the Italian tourist killed when a bomb tore through the lobby bar at the Copacabana Hotel in Havana's spiffy Miramar neighborhood.

Prosecutors may also summon a third Cuban police official to provide more details on Di Celmo's death.

Hernadez Caballero has been down this road before - he flew to Miami in 2001 to testify about the hotel bombings during the trial of five Cuban intelligence agents eventually convicted of spying on the U.S.

The testimonies would constitute a rare measure of cooperation between two countries paralyzed by more than half a century of frigid relations. The U.S. embargo against Cuba turns 49 this month.

But Posada's chief attorney, Arturo Hernandez, made four objections Tuesday, asking Judge Kathleen Cardone to exclude some of the Cuban documents on which the officials will testify and asking her to admonish them to limit their statements so as not to include hearsay or opinion.

Hernandez also asked that if the Cuban documents are allowed, that the judge grant a continuance, or recess, for a week to give the defense time to cope with 6,500 pages of materials Cuban authorities gave the U.S. government for the Posada case.

Cardone has already refused a previous defense motion to throw out all those documents, and the prosecution says it plans to only use about 100 pages of them, including about 50 photographs.

Finally, Hernandez asked the U.S. government to produce more records on Posada's employment with the CIA, including how much he was paid, what aliases he was permitted to use, and what false passports he was given.

Hernandez implied that Posada used a CIA-issued, bogus passport as recently as 2004 and, in the discussion that followed, prosecutors divulged that Posada was on the CIA payroll from the early 1960s until 1976.

"Your honor, the defendant is crying wolf," assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Reardon complained.

Cardone dismissed the jury and adjourned the case until Wednesday, saying she needed more time to consider so many motions. But she also warned both sides to be ready to resume immediately, if she doesn't grant the continuance.

When the trial opened last month, Hernandez told Cardone that if the U.S. government was going to subpoena experts from Cuba, he should be allowed to cross examine them about the communist government's domination of all facets of life on the island, showing how state officials can be pressured into stretching the truth to further their homeland's political objectives.

Cardone ruled that Hernandez cannot put Cuba and its political system on trial, but that he would be allowed to raise some issues about the credibility of the Cuban government and its state-trained experts as appropriate.

Posada, born in the Cuban province of Cienfuegos, spent a lifetime crisscrossing Latin America as the ultimate Cold Warrior. While little known in the U.S., he is considered former Cuban President Fidel Castro's nemesis and is featured on propaganda billboards across the island.

In a 1998 interview with the New York Times, he said he planned the hotel bombings to hurt Cuban tourism, but never meant to kill anyone. Posada has since denied that account.

Posada participated indirectly in the Bay of Pigs invasion and later moved to Venezuela, where he served as head of that country's intelligence service. He was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. A military court dismissed the charges, but Posada escaped from prison before a civilian trial against him was completed.

In the 1980s, he helped Washington provide aid to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. In 2000, he was arrested 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, seeking American citizenship and prompting the immigration hearings that led to the current charges against him.

Posada was held in an immigration detention center in El Paso for about two years but released in 2007 and has been living in Miami. Cuba and Venezuela would like to try him for the 1976 airliner bombing and the 1997 hotel attacks, but a U.S. immigration judge has previously ruled Posada can't be sent to either country for fear he could be tortured.