U.S. Envoy Complains of Hasenfus Treatment
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walter told the Security Council on Wednesday that the trial of captured American Eugene Hasenfus in Nicaragua was a sham.
″We deplore the carnival atmosphere of the proceedings,″ Walters told the 15-nation body. He reiterated the Reagan administration’s contention that Hasenfus’ aerial supply mission on behalf of Nicaraguan rebels was a ″private initiative.″
The flight, he said, ″was not organized, directed or financed by the U.S. government.″
Hasenfus, 45, of Marietta, Wis., was captured in southern Nicaragua on Oct. 6 after Sandinista forces shot down the transport plane on which he was a crew member. The plane was flying supplies to the Contra rebels, who have been fighting the leftist Sandinista regime for six years.
A three-man People’s Tribunal in Managua on Monday charged Hasenfus with terrorism and violating Nicaraguan security. Interviewed Tuesday by NBC, Hasenfus said he was a mercenary working for the Central Intelligence Agency.
″I’m guilty of everything they’ve charged,″ Hasenfus said.
But Walters, a former CIA deputy director, told the Security Council: ″We do not believe that actions taken in such a coercive environment can be considered voluntary or informed.″
He said Hasenfus was ″on trial in a kangaroo court in Nicaragua″ and was being denied due process while being ″paraded before the press.″
Walters praised Hasenfus and the two Americans killed in the plane crash as ″brave men who were engaged in the task of helping the people of Nicaragua in their struggle for freedom.″
″Many private citizens have come forward to help... We do not know who they all are, any more than we know the identity of all Americans helping the Sandinista regime,″ Walters said.
″Americans are free to support either side in Central America and - unlike Nicaragua - we do not consider it a legitimate task of government to track down who is contributing what to whom, so long as our laws are not violated,″ he said.
Walters spoke on the second day of a debate requested by Nicaragua, which has asked the council to prod the United States into complying with last June’s World Court ruling.
The World Court, based in the Hague, Netherlands, directed the United States to stop aiding the rebels. But the court, the judicial arm of the United Nations, has no enforcement powers and the Reagan administration refused to accept its jurisdiction in the dispute.
Walters accused Nicaragua of manipulating the World Court and told the Security Council that ″acceptance of the jurisdiction of the court is a matter of consent.″ He said 11 of the 14 other council members do not accept its jurisdiction, and acceptance by the other three is conditional.
Nicaragua’s foreign minister, Miguel D’Escoto, said in reply that Walters had delivered an apology ″for crime, terrorism and illegality.″
″Legally and morally,″ he said, ″the United States doesn’t have a leg to stand on in rejecting the court’s jurisdiction.″
Walters left before D’Escoto spoke.
Nicaragua received the support of other nations including Mexico, Cuba and India.
Ambassador Mario Moya Palencia of Mexico said President Reagan’s approval of $100 million in aid to the Nicaraguan rebels ″is a historic, political and legal mistake that can cause serious damage to the relations between the United States and Latin America.″
Wednesday’s meeting ended without a decision on Nicaragua’s resolution, and the council was expected to resume consideration of the matter Thursday. Three months ago, the United States vetoed a resolution calling for compliance with the World Court ruling.