Salvadoran sentenced to 30 years for Cuba bombings

HAVANA, (Reuters) – A Salvadoran man has been  convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Cuban court  for his part in 1990s hotel bombings in Cuba organized by  anti-Castro groups, Cuban state media said yesterday.

A court in Havana found Francisco Chavez Abarca guilty of  terrorism in a two-day trial that included testimony by two  Central Americans he had recruited to help him, the Communist  Party newspaper Granma reported.

In statements shown earlier this year on Cuban television,  Chavez Abarca confessed to the bombings and said he was hired  by former CIA operative and Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles to  carry them out.

The bombings, one of which killed an Italian tourist, were  aimed at frightening away tourists from the communist island  and destabilizing the government then led by Fidel Castro.

Chavez Abarca was extradited to Cuba after he was detained  in July in Venezuela, where he was accused of planning violent  acts ahead of congressional elections.

Granma said witnesses against him included two men he  contracted to help with the bombings, Nader Kamal Musallam  Barakat of Guatemala and fellow Salvadoran Raul Ernesto Cruz  Leon.

Cruz Leon and another Salvadoran, Otto Rene Rodriguez  Llerena, had been sentenced to death in Havana for the  bombings, but their sentences were commuted this month to 30  years in prison.

Granma said Chavez Abarca was the head of a Central  American group set up by Posada Carriles and the Miami-based  Cuban-American National Foundation, an anti-Castro Cuban exile  group.

Posada Carriles, 82, is set to go on trial next month in El  Paso, Texas, in an immigration case in which he is accused of  lying about his involvement in the hotel bombings.

His lawyers have asked the court to throw out evidence  against him provided by the Cuban government, which also  charges that he masterminded the 1976 bombing of a Cuban  airliner in which 73 people died.

U.S. prosecutors in the Texas case have requested  permission from the court there to take depositions in Cuba  from Chavez Abarca and Rodriguez Llerena.

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