Judge Refuses to Keep INS away from Witnesses for Noriega Co- Defendant
MIAMI (AP) _ A federal judge today refused to order government investigators to stay away from defense witnesses in the case of a co-defendant of Manuel Noriega.
But U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler urged both sides to avoid intimidation.
An attorney for Luis del Cid, alleged to be a top aide to Noriega - complained to the court that investigators from the Immigration and Naturalization Service visited the defendants’s wife and two friends soon after the three testified at a bond hearing this week.
″These witnesses declined to go back to court today - they are terrified,″ said attorney Samuel Burstyn.
″They are worried about their immigration status.″
Del Cid’s wife is Panamanian and the other two women are Nicaraguan refugees.
But Hoeveler noted the women - Tilsa del Cid and Norma and Eglantina Alvarez - had offered to take custody of del Cid if he is freed on bond.
″It is important for me to get the full picture of what their status is,″ Hoeveler said.
INS agents had demanded that three women who testified for del Cid on Tuesday turn over all their immigration papers and give information about how they gained entry into the United States, Burstyn wrote in a request for the emergency hearing.
″The timing reflects vividly that this is a retaliatory measure aimed at intimidating these and other defense witnesses,″ said Burstyn.
On Tuesday, the Alvarez sisters testified that del Cid helped them flee into Panama to avoid persecution by the Sandinistas.
In his motion Thursday, Burstyn said that immigration agents had asked the sisters whether they once worked for Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and ″implied that there was something improper about their escape into Panama.″
Earlier Thursday, Burstyn and other defense attorneys accused the government of balking at court orders to turn over both secret and non-secret documents to aid the defense.
″There is a desire to stonewall information ... to hermetically seal off the guts and gore of the early investigation,″ said Burstyn, adding that he hoped the tentative March 5 trial date for Noriega would force the government to stop dragging his feet.
Prosecutors last week threatened to try Michael O’Kane, lawyer for the accused drug pilot Daniel Miranda, for mentioning the existence of a National Security Agency listening post in Panama City - despite the fact the office is shown on a map in the Panama City telephone book.
Also, a lawyer for convicted drug kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas strongly denied his client will cooperate with prosecutors to convict the deposed Panamanian leader, despite a taped interview the imprisoned trafficker gave implicating Noriega.
″He will be no witness against Noriega, there is no deal,″ Lehder’s attorney Jose Quinon said Thursday.