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Eighteen Reported Arrested for Clandestine Activities

September 25, 1988

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Authorities have arrested 18 people for alleged involvement in clandestine activities, pro-government media and opposition leaders said Saturday.

Groups opposed to the military regime of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega criticized the arrests, which they said occurred during the past several days.

″It is unfortunate that the government accuses innocent people of something they haven’t done,″ said Marcos Alarcon, an Authentic Panamanian Party representative in the National Legislature.

″This is an method that the regime has used on various occasions before against those of us who represent the democratic aspirations of the people,″ said Ricardo Arias Calderon, president of the Democratic Christian Party.

Martin Paz, a spokesman for the Defense Forces, refused to confirm the arrests and said only that state security officials would have a news conference Monday on the subject.

The arrests were made known Saturday in the newspaper Critica, which has strong links to the government. Critica said the 18 had been arrested for what it called clandestine activities. The pro-government Channel 2 television carried a similar report.

Police and security agents arrested opposition activist Alberto Conte, who has a publicity firm, and businessman Boris Sucre, on Thursday and searched their offices, relatives of the two men said.

Diana del Rio, a teacher at a private business school, was arrested the same day, the school’s director said.

The newspaper said 14 of those arrested were young people who belonged to what it called the National Patriotic Committee and another group, the March 16 Active Movement. Critica claimed firearms and plans for subversive activity were confiscated from them.

The committee has not been previously mentioned and the movement has been heard of only through reports of a flier that said it was made up of civilians and military individuals who oppose the government.

The Defense Forces, headed by Noriega, have crushed dozens of protests against his rule since June 1987 and arrested or exiled numerous opposition leaders.

Noriega, the country’s de facto leader, has resisted U.S. economic and political pressure to resign as commander of the Defense Forces and leave the country. He has been indicted on narcotics trafficking charges in the United States.

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