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Contra Commander: Rights Report Shows Rebel Cooperation With PM-US-Iran-Contra Rdp, Bjt

July 30, 1987

MIAMI (AP) _ A report on rights abuses by U.S.-backed Nicaraguan rebels details a dozen incidents leading to the deaths of eight civilians and eight Sandinista prisoners, but a Contra commander says such cases are rare.

″You must understand that in war there are innnocent victims,″ Enrique Bermudez, the Contra commander-in-chief, said Wednesday. ″But there is no systematic policy″ of abuses in the Nicaraguan Resistance.

Bermudez refused to discuss specific cases, calling them, ″accidental, transitory″ violations.

Twenty-two other cases that occurred during the past two years are under investigation, according to an advance copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The report was prepared by the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, which was created by Congress as a condition for U.S. aid to the Contras.

Among the cases investigated was the April death of U.S. citizen Benjamin Linder, who worked on hydroelectric projects in Nicaragua. The report concluded that Linder was killed in an ambush by Contras who had heard there was a Sandinista patrol with a Cuban and another foreigner in the area.

Bermudez expressed concern the report would distract attention from the Contra struggle, and complained the ruling leftist Sandinistas were not being held to the same standard as the Contras.

″You must understand that there are political interests interested in manipulating such issues,″ said Bermudez. He said he referred not just to the Sandinstas but to U.S. opponents of aid to the Contras.

All possible human rights violations have been referred to a Contra investigating commission and its legal department, he said.

″We are hiding absolutely nothing,″ Bermudez said. ″There is evidence of ample cooperation.″

Association spokesman Jose Tijerino agreed that Bermudez had been cooperative in the investigations and said relations between his group and the Contras were improving.

″There does not exist any guerrilla movement in the world, not in the past and I doubt in the future, that is giving such support to human rights,″ Bermudez said, adding that his troops escorted association investigators into the field.

He said 15,000 Contra troops are fed daily by Nicaraguans, a situation unlikely if they were killing or abusing civilians.

″We do not supply our forces with food - it is the Nicaraguan people who supply us, and they would not do so if we were guilty″ of such abuses, he said.

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