AP NEWS
Related topics

Hasenfus Goes Before Tribunal URGENT

October 31, 1986

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ U.S. mercenary Eugene Hasenfus today refused to make a statement before a revolutionary tribunal trying him for terrorism and conspiracy for his role in aiding Contra rebels.

It was not known if the 45-year-old former Marine - who today made his first appearance before the People’s Tribunal since his Oct. 20 arraignment - would speak during a later session.

Hasenfus, of Marinette, Wis., had been scheduled to appear before the three-man tribunal, composed of a lawyer, truck driver and laborer, to answer charges lodged by the Sandinista government.

At the session, Hasenfus was not allowed to confer with his lawyer nor talk with his wife and brother.

Hasenfus was asked by Justice Minister Rodrigo Reyes to verify a statement the minister said Hasenfus wrote.

Hasenfus’ Nicaraguan attorney, Enrique Sotelo Borgen, objected, saying, ″This is not the place for that.″

Tribunal president Reynaldo Monterrey then called a 24-hour recess to consider the defense objection. The justice minister told reporters the document he had shown Hasenfus was a written confession made by the American.

Earlier in the session, Hasenfus asked through an interpreter if he had to answer questions or had the right to remain silent.

″The prisoner must answer all questions, if only yes or no,″ replied Monterrey.

″It is not the job of the court to explain things the defense attorney should already have explained to you,″ Monterrey added.

The tribunal president said Hasenfus had been given ample opportunity to talk Sotelo Borgen.

But Sotelo Borgen told reporters before the day’s session began that he had not been able to talk to his client since Tuesday, when Hasenfus was brought to the tribunal for a private meeting with court officials.

Hasenfus arrived 25 minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. start of the session.

Sotelo Borgen said earlier he does not want his client to testify until later.

″Hasenfus should not be called to testify until the prosecution presents all its evidence, since that way he will have the opportunity to analyze it and then respond,″ Sotelo Borgen told The Associated Press. ″That is what the (legal) procedures establish.″

Hasenfus is being held in a prison outside Managua.

Hasenfus was a crewman on a rebel supply flight shot down 0ct. 5 over southern Nicaragua by Sandinista forces. He was captured the next day and faces 30 years in prison if convicted. The three other crew members - two of them Americans - died when the C-123 cargo plane crashed.

The tribunal said it would hear Saturday from Jose Fernando Canales, the Sandinista soldier who shot down the aircraft with a shoulder-held surface-to- air missile, making him an instant national hero.

Next week, the tribunal is to hear from various Sandinista military and Interior Ministry officials and will view a videotape of the CBS program ″60 Minutes″ in which Hasenfus was interviewed by Mike Wallace.

President Daniel Ortega, in separate appearances before three labor groups Thursday night, made no mention of Hasenfus, limiting his remarks to domestic matters. However, at the close of the third rally, Ortega led a crowd of hundreds in a popular chant that has become the Sandinista battlecry, ″Here, there, the Yankees will die.″ The chant rhymes in Spanish.

Over the weekend, the president hinted at the possibility that Hasenfus, whose conviction is considered extremely likely, might eventually be pardoned by the Sandinista government.

The tribunal has been studying about 130 pieces of evidence submitted by the prosecution on Wednesday, and awaited more documents and statements from witnesses.

The court has eight days, counting from Wednesday, to receive evidence from the prosecution and defense. It may extend the period by four days.

Attorney General Rodrigo Reyes said he is waiting for the court to act on his Wednesday request to name experts to help in determining the authenticity of the identification cards, flight maintenance log and other papers found in the wreckage of the C-123 or carried by Hasenfus and the two American pilots.

Hasenfus has said he took part in 10 CIA-coordinated arms drops to Contra rebels from Ilopango military base in El Salvador and the U.S.-built Aguacate base in Honduras. Tons of arms were stored at Ilopango for shipment to the rebels, he has said.

One piece of evidence submitted was a card bearing the Salvadoran air force emblem, Hasenfus’ name and ″Group: USA″ and ″Specialty: Adviser.″ On the reverse, under ″Restricted areas,″ was a list of numbers. Nicaraguan authorities say the card gave him access to restricted areas of the base.

The United States has denied any official role in the arms drops.

The Reagan administration accuses Nicaragua of trying to export revolution to other Central American nations and of having too close military ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba.

AP RADIO
Update hourly