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Men Who Hijacked Ferry From Cuba Freed

December 30, 1995

MIAMI (AP) _ Two Cubans who helped trigger an exodus of 30,000 rafters last year by hijacking a ferry to Florida are free after a year and a half of detention.

Lazaro Martinez, 23, and Aramis Palacio, 22, were released Wednesday, after a Board of Immigration Appeals upheld a judge’s refusal to let the Immigration and Naturalization Service deport the pair.

Palacio and Martinez made their dramatic exit from Cuba in August 1994 using a phony grenade and a gun to take control of a Havana commuter ferry.

Their detentions were unusually lengthy and immigration officials never explained why they refused to parole them. Most other rafters were released once their applications for asylum had been processed.

Attorneys for Martinez and Palacio petitioned a federal court this month seeking their release, saying immigration officials had unfairly chosen to make an example of them.

``It was very difficult for me,″ Martinez said Thursday. ``We suffered a great deal. Now I’m free, with my family, celebrating freedom and the new year.″

Both men plan to apply for legal permanent residence in the United States, said Palacio’s attorney, Vicente Tome.

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