HAVANA - Cuban university students symbolically tried Luis Posada Carriles yesterday, accusing the anti-communist warrior of teaming up with Washington to commit decades of terrorist attacks.
A four-judge panel of University of Havana law students were scheduled to hear 32 witnesses over two days before issuing a sentence - also symbolic - against the 79-year-old former CIA operative. Posada, who was born in Cuba, has dedicated most of his life to toppling Fidel Castro's communist-run government.
The verdict was not in doubt. The trial was organized by the Communist Party's youth wing and other pro-government groups, and there was no sign of anybody named to offer a defense of Posada.
No new evidence was expected, though Cuba hopes the trial will keep public pressure on the United States to act against Posada, who was released last week from house arrest in the U.S. after a Texas judge dropped immigration charges against him.
Hundreds of college and high-school students, many looking bored and squirming in their seats, filled a social club ringed by dilapidated tennis courts in the Cuban capital's Vedado district.
Witnesses included Cuban government investigators and students who studied the case here and in Venezuela.
The extensive list of accusations included charges that Posada organized a Cuban jetliner bombing in 1976, as well as series of bombings at Havana hotels in the 1990s. He also was accused of directing Iran-Contra arms operations run by U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North and of overseeing a plot to assassinate Castro during a summit in Panama in 2000.
The U.S. government was named as a co-defendant, accused of providing financial and logistical support for decades of attacks, including the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.
"I consider him a danger to humanity," said Dager Aguilar, a law student who was too young to remember much of Posada's heyday but who testified against him based on evidence provided by the Cuban state.
Havana accuses Posada of masterminding the Cubana airliner bombing that killed 73 people, and Venezuela wants to try him formally in that case. Posada denies those charges, but in the past acknowledged - then recanted - organizing 1997 bombings at Havana luxury hotels, including one that killed an Italian tourist.
"I don't think there's a person in the world who could hold a positive opinion of this criminal," said Manuel Hevia, director of Cuba's Center for Historical Investigation, following his testimony.
Posada is a hero among some exiles in Miami, the heart of the U.S. anti-Castro movement.