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Brother Of Jailed American Waits To Hear Charges

January 12, 1988

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The brother of an American pilot shot down over Nicaragua and charged with aiding Nicaraguan rebels said Monday he was still waiting to hear about charges and plans for a trial.

″They indicated they would read the charges to him, maybe tomorrow,″ William Denby said in an interview from his hotel.

His brother, James Denby, a 57-year-old farmer from Carlinville, Ill., has been in custody since Dec. 6 when his small plane was shot down by Sandinista government troops on the Caribbean coast near the Costa Rican border.

William Denby, who came to Nicaragua last week to follow the legal procedings, said he had been told by lawyers his brother would be charged with ″illicit association to commit an act or gesture against the public security and illicit association to commit a gesture to subject the nation to foreign domination.″

He said he did not know what the charges would be based on and that the lawyers would ask for time to prepare a defense.

The charges, Denby said he had been told, carry a five- to 30-year jail term.

James Denby will be 58 years old on Tuesday, and his wife Marie left Monday on a flight to Managua hoping to see him on his birthday. She carried with her birthday cards, a Bible, and greetings from his friends.

William Denby’s wife Kitsie said in Illinois that Marie Denby and a family friend from Carlinville, Fred Smith, left St. Louis Monday morning for Nicaragua.

Marie Denby arrived in Managua Monday evening and told reporters she was tired and hoped to see her husband on Tuesday, his birthday. She also said she wanted to see the government prosecutor about her husband’s case.

Robert Swanson, an attorney for the family, told The Associated Press last month that Denby was innocent of all charges. He said his client entered Nicaraguan airspace because of bad weather.

The lawyer also said that negatives found on the Cessna 172 showed that Denby had helped the Sandinistas at his Costa Rican farm before they came to power in July 1979, in their successful fight to oust the Somoza dynasty that ruled Nicaragua for 42 years.

Defense Minister Humberto Ortega, in announcing the capture of Denby, said the government found ″a big fish.″ He claimed Denby was linked to the Contra rebels, backed and trained by the United States to overthrow the Sandinistas.

William Denby said he saw his brother last Friday and said he ″was fine, optimistic and upbeat.″

The Sandinistas have not responded to a written reqest submitted by The Associated Press asking to speak with Denby.

The government has said Denby will be tried in the Anti-Somocista Popular Courts, tribunals set up after the revolution principally to try former members of the Somoza’s disbanded national guard.

Eugene Hasenfus of Marinette, Wis., the only survivor of a Contra supply plane that was shot down in October 1986, was tried in the popular courts. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison but pardoned after serving less than three months.