Court-Martial in Cuba Indicts 15 Top Officers
A Cuban court-martial formally indicted 15 high-ranking military officers on charges of high treason and trafficking in cocaine, diamonds and ivory, Cuba’s official media said Saturday.
The 15, including former Interior Minister Jose Abrantes and war hero Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, were stripped of their rank and expelled from the Communist Party last week.
They were formally indicted by the military court in a meeting late Friday and early Saturday, said the official Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City.
If convicted, the 15 could face the firing squad.
The news agency said the court reconvened Saturday afternoon. It said the proceedings were attended by the Cuban press and senior government officials but gave no details.
Dispatches from Havana said the defendants belonged to a secret division of the Interior Ministry that smuggled medicines, hospital supplies and computers to circumvent a U.S. trade embargo.
Conspired to Smuggle Drugs
Prensa Latina said the military prosecutor, Brig. Gen. Juan Escalona Reguera, told the court the defendants conspired for 2 1/2 years to help Colombia’s Medellin cartel smuggle cocaine into the United States and also dealt in diamonds and ivory.
Escalona dismissed as “absurd” arguments by Ochoa and some of the other accused that they dealt in cocaine to earn dollars to help Cuba’s faltering economy, Prensa Latina said.
The accused made these claims before a separate military tribunal on Tuesday and Wednesday that stripped them of all rank and decorations and recommended a court-martial.
President Fidel Castro on Thursday replaced Abrantes with Maj. Gen. Abelardo Colome Ibarra, a confidant of Castro and the third-highest-ranking officer after Castro and Defense Minister Raul Castro, the president’s brother.