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Death Penalty Sought for 7 Cuban Officials

From United Press International

Cuba’s justice minister Tuesday urged a special military court to hand the death penalty to seven of 14 former officials being court-martialed on drug-trafficking and other charges, the official Cuban news agency reported.

Prensa Latina, monitored in Mexico City, said Justice Minister Juan Escalona asked the three-member special military court to sentence seven of the former military and Interior Ministry officials to death. The news agency did not identify the seven.

Escalona also recommended 30-year prison sentences for two defendants, 25-year sentences for four more and a 15-year sentence for the 14th, Prensa Latina said.

Since June 12, the Cuban government has fired two Cabinet ministers and arrested the 14 powerful officials, including Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, a disgraced national hero, on charges of drug trafficking, embezzlement, abuse of office, corruption and “crimes against the country.”

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‘Hero of the Republic’

Ochoa, awarded the coveted “Hero of the Republic” medal for leading Cuban troops in Angola, is accused of trafficking in drugs, diamonds and ivory while serving as commander of some of the 50,000 soldiers who supported the Marxist Angolan government against a South African-backed insurgency.

The military court headed by Gen. Ramon Espinosa Martin is trying Ochoa, his two aides and 11 former Interior Ministry officials. It was not clear when the court would announce its verdict.

Earlier, Prensa Latina reported that Cuban authorities seized more than $1.5 million in cash as well as weapons and vehicles from the 14 defendants.

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The news agency said they formed two groups--one that shipped Colombian cocaine to Miami and another that helped pass shipments of marijuana from the neighboring island nation of Jamaica through Cuban waters to the United States.

The agency quoted Col. Pedro Alvarez Lugo, one of the investigators in Cuba’s burgeoning drug scandal, as saying authorities have confiscated $1.2 million as well as 423,744 Cuban pesos worth $500,000 from illicit drug-related operations headed by Ochoa.


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