A munitions expert pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he violated the Neutrality Act by training Nicaraguan Contras and said the Reagan Administration has made him a scapegoat for an Oliver L. North operation.
Jack Terrell, 47, said he was the head field adviser for a military training operation in Honduras between October, 1984, and March, 1985. He said he worked with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. government.
The purpose of the mission was not to fight the Sandinistas, but to create a scenario in which the U.S. military would become involved, he said. Terrell said that North managed the operation from Washington and that its financing "was not private money."
'All the Way to Top'
Without mentioning President Reagan's name, Terrell stressed that knowledge of the operation "went all the way to the top."
"The secret war was managed by the State Department and high Administration officials," said John Mattes, Terrell's lawyer. "But only the people who carried out the policy are being indicted under the Neutrality Act."
Terrell is among seven men charged in a June 28 indictment with recruiting mercenaries to participate in military actions against the Nicaraguan government. They were accused of violating the Neutrality Act, which prohibits Americans from trying to overthrow a government with which the United States is not at war.