Six Contra supporters accused of attacking Nicaragua urged a judge Friday to dismiss their case on grounds that the United States has been waging a de facto war against the Sandinistas.
They asked U.S. District Judge Norman C. Roettger to throw out an indictment accusing them of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act by recruiting mercenaries and launching operations against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua from U.S. soil in 1985.
"This is a ludicrous thing," said defendant Mario Calero, brother of top Contra leader Adolfo Calero. " . . . The Executive Branch was funding and directing the war." The Neutrality Act forbids private citizens to launch U.S.-based military operations against any nation with which the country is at peace.
Adolfo Calero testified Friday that the rebels continued to receive U.S. aid, such as private contributions funneled through then-White House aide Oliver L. North, even during the time that Congress cut off military funds.
The group was indicted in June after charges of Reagan Administration foot-dragging. Opponents of Contra aid accused former Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III of stalling the case because it threatened to uncover North's involvement.
At least two defendants, Jack Terrell, a former mercenary who went to authorities, and Thomas Posey, head of the Alabama-based Civilian Materiel Assistance group, have produced documents showing that the FBI and other agencies were aware of their activities, and have said knowledge went all the way to the White House.
Roettger continued the pretrial hearing until Jan. 5 and said he would rule on the dismissal motion shortly thereafter.