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Officials Refuse To Discuss Promised Review Process With AM-Cubans-Atlanta

December 1, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Justice Department officials coping with prison uprisings by Cuban detainees pointedly refused again Tuesday to discuss the promised review process that will ultimately determine the fate of the Cubans.

A number of civil liberties groups have criticized the agreement which ended the riot by Cuban inmates at Oakdale, La., saying it is ambiguously worded and could be so narrowly interpreted that all the Cubans still could be deported.

They ask whether the Cubans will be given hearings and legal counsel so they can rebut derogatory information against them.

Federal Prisons Director Michael Quinlan, declining to respond to the criticism in detail, simply reiterated the week-old promise from Attorney General Edwin Meese III that there will be an individual review of each Cuban’s case.

Quinlan has steadfastly refused to say whether the format for the reviews is part of the negotiating process at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, where Cuban detainees continue to hold 90 hostages.

The details of the review process promised by Meese are being worked out by Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns, who has not been present at daily news briefings on the prison riots or in the negotiations with the Cubans. Burns has declined to take reporters’ telephone calls.

The Justice Department, trying to deflect criticism, announced that the government is resuming a limited release process for the Cubans which was in place prior to the riots but which was suspended because of them.

Department spokesman Terry Eastland said ″a couple of dozen″ Cuban detainees should be released in the next two weeks and that four were released Monday.

All will be sent to halfway houses or released to the custody of their families.

Among the concerns of various groups about the impending reviews:

-The Oakdale agreement doesn’t outline the procedures that will be used in reviewing cases, said Carla Dudeck, director of the Coalition to Support Cuban Detainees. She said that there is no guarantee that the people already approved for parole won’t be deported.

-During the review process, will the Cubans be permitted to review their immigration files with an opportunity to rebut derogatory information? asks Arthur Helton, director of the political asylum project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

-The proceedings should occur before an impartial arbiter and judicial review of the arbiter’s decision should be available, say Helton and others. Currently, there is no recourse from the decisions by immigration judges.

-Legal counsel should be appointed free of charge for the Cuban detainees, various civil liberties groups have said.

Some 7,600 Cubans who escaped to the United States in 1980 through the port of Mariel are behind bars, including some 3,800 who continued to be held after completing sentences for crimes committed in this country. The rioting began after it was announced that Cuba had agreed to take back 2,500 of the Mariel Cubans.

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