Federal prosecutor charges 5 Cubans, now back in Cuba, with conspiracy

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Nov 19 08:30:45 MST 2002

November 18
Cubans Charged in Assault at Mission
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Five Cubans formerly employed at the Cuban
diplomatic mission here were charged in a complaint by a
federal prosecutor on Monday with conspiracy to threaten and
assault demonstrators protesting in front of the mission in
April 2000.

The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Roscoe C.
Howard Jr., said a conviction could carry an imprisonment of
180 days on conviction.

But, as diplomats, the five have immunity from prosecution.
In any case, they all have departed the United States.

Brigida Benitez, an attorney for the demonstrators, said
that due to the complaint against the accused, they will
never receive visas to enter the United States again.

The melee took place on April 14, 2000 as the demonstrators
were calling for democracy in Cuba and also were demanding
that Elian Gonzalez, 6, not be returned to Cuba.

Gonzalez was at the center of a custody fight between his
Cuban father and Cuban-American relatives after his rescue
from the ocean south of Florida in November 1999.

A week after the incident, Gonzalez was seized from his
South Florida relatives by immigration service agents. He
was returned to Cuba in late June.

The Cuban diplomatic mission had no immediate comment Monday
on the complaint.

Howard said in a statement that that over a dozen employees
of the Cuban mission ``allegedly pushed and shoved many of
the demonstrators.

``Several demonstrators were kicked and punched, and a few
were struck with the very signs and placards they were
holding during the protest,'' the statement said.

Some of the demonstrators required hospitalization but there
were no serious injuries.

At the time, the spokesman for the Cuban mission, Luis
Fernandez, accused the demonstrators of engaging in
provocative actions.

He said the protesters insulted women and children at the
mission and also passed objects through the fence.

Named in the complaint were Eugenio Martinez Enriquez,
Fernando Perez Maza, Damien Michael Ravelo Avila, Joel
Marrero Enriquez and Armando Leonardo Collazo Iglesias.

11/18/02 14:46 EST

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