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Cuban Prosecutors Ask Death Penalty for Florida-Based Exile

April 26, 1996

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Cuban prosecutors on Thursday asked a provincial court to sentence a Florida-based exile to death for killing a man while trying to infiltrate the island with weapons.

They asked the court to sentence six alleged accomplices of Humberto Real Suarez to 30 years in prison each.

A decision on the sentences was expected within a few days, according to the Cuban government’s Prensa Latina news agency, which quoted state television and was monitored in Mexico City. There have been no reported executions in Cuba since 1992.

The official report contradicts earlier reports by human rights campaigners in Cuba and political activists in Florida who said that the sentences had already been imposed by the court in the central province of Villa Clara, where the men were captured.

Officials say the seven men were part of an armed, paramilitary group that took a speedboat to Cuba in October 1994 in hopes of forming guerrilla groups to fight against the Communist government.

They landed at Caibarien, about 210 miles east of Havana, and apparently tried to stop a car in which four sport fishermen were traveling. Officials said the attackers shot and killed one of the fishermen, 34-year-old Arcelio Rodriguez Garcia, a local Communist Party official.

The seven were soon arrested by Interior Ministry agents.

Executions have been rare in Cuba in recent years. None have been announced since February 1992, when another Cuban exile was put to death after attempting an armed infiltration.

Under Cuban law, sentences can be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Cuban Cabinet also can commute a death sentence.

The seven men were members of the Florida-based National Democratic Unity Party, known by its Spanish initials as PUND.

Sergio Gonzalez Rosquete, general secretary of PUND, told Miami’s WLTV-TV that the seven members of his group ``didn’t have a chance to properly defend themselves″ in the provincial Cuban court.

``Everything was a joke,″ he told the station, which is part of the Univision network.

The PUND leader said he understood that the sentences had been imposed and that group members were powerless to help the seven men.

Real’s wife, Berta Garcia, told Univision that her husband had been ``very brave″ during the trial, speaking out ``clearly and loudly,″ telling them he had landed in Cuba ``to start guerrilla warfare against Fidel Castro.″

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