Charges of crimes against humanity filed against Cuban President Fidel Castro are proceeding “quite well,” despite a lack of support from the Bush administration and self-proclaimed human-rights groups, according to Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel Larry Klayman.
Judicial Watch is a Washington, D.C.-based legal watchdog group.
“Castro takes this seriously,” Klayman told WorldNetDaily, revealing that the Cuban dictator has hired a “high-priced defense attorney” to represent him against the charges.
Castro has obtained the services of Jan Fermon, a “top notch … left-leaning defense attorney,” according to Chris Farrell, the legal group’s director of investigations.
Klayman says the Bush administration’s lack of action against Castro and his communist government induced Judicial Watch to file charges in Belgium. According to that nation’s laws, individuals committing human-rights violations anywhere in the world can be held accountable in Belgium.
Belgium’s legal structure was used to bring charges against Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator.
Judicial Watch’s accusations against Castro and his government include murder, political imprisonment and rape, according to Klayman and a Judicial Watch press release.
The charges, filed in October, were initiated by Jose Basulto, sole survivor of a Cuban air force jet attack on aircraft operated by Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban exile group that assists others fleeing the communist controlled island.
Some 160,000 individuals have joined the suit, alleging a variety of criminal activities including murder. New complainants come forward “each week” forcing the petition to be continually amended, Klayman stated.
Asserting that many think of Castro as a “Woody Allen comic figure,” Klayman emphatically stated that “he is not.” Castro and his regime have “raped or killed tens of thousands” of Cubans, he said.
Klayman says he has not received assistance from any international human-rights group such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, although he would welcome such support.
“The crimes of a leftist regime are somehow less important” than those of a right-wing regime, Klayman speculated.
When contacted by WorldNetDaily, spokeswomen for both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were unable, after a number of phone contacts, to provide a statement regarding Judicial Watch’s charges against Castro.
Klayman also denounced what he described as the Bush administration’s disinterest in pursuing the case.
Press officers in both the Justice and State Departments told WND that they were unfamiliar with the Judicial Watch proceedings against Castro.
Castro has already been implicated directly with murder in a U.S. courtroom.
Klayman cited a recent Florida murder conviction of Cuban intelligence officer Gerardo Hernandez for complicity in the murder of four Cuban exiles seeking to assist other Cubans fleeing the communist-controlled island.
Hernandez was part – and allegedly the ringleader – of the “Wasp Network,” a group of 14 Cuban operatives active in the U.S. until its break-up by the FBI in 1998.
Of the 14, five admitted their guilt, four fled to Cuba and five, including Hernandez, maintained their innocence.
Evidence presented in the trial points to Castro taking personal charge of the Wasp Network’s espionage activities, including the death of the four Cuban exiles.
Klayman also pointed to Castro’s public statements on CBS News and in Time magazine, admitting his part in the murder.
“Bush will not do anything on Cuba … because of his ties to corporate interests,” claimed Klayman. “He is their ally.” Klayman cited the powerful Illinois-based agricultural products giant Archer Daniels Midland as one of the highly influential corporations awaiting entry into Cuba.
Citing the U.S. government’s official assessment of Castro as a supporter of terrorism, Klayman questioned why the U.S. has not pursued Cuba’s documented terrorist connections as it did in Afghanistan.
The U.S. is seeking support for a vote of condemnation against Cuba before the U.N. Human Rights Commission, as it has in past years, but Washington never has sought to condemn the Castro regime as guilty of crimes against humanity.
Klayman’s disappointment in the Bush administration’s approach to the Castro regime is shared by the chief of staff to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Steve Vermillion.
While Vermillion declined to comment directly on Judicial Watch’s specific charges, he agreed that Castro is “part of an international criminal network,” which includes “narco-trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, as well as other criminal activities.”
Castro’s Cuba is also a haven for a variety of fugitives from justice, according to Vermillion.
“[Former FBI Director Louis] Freeh told [members of Congress and their staff] that there are 77 known federal fugitives … in Cuba,” Vermillion stated.
Among those receiving haven in Cuba are the Puerto Rican terrorist and killer Victor Gerena, as well as members of the outlawed Irish Republican Army and the Basque separatist movement, ETA, which has been associated with numerous killings in Spain, said Vermillion.
Vermillion emphasized that the Castro regime continues to forbid the existence of a free press, free speech, independent labor organizations and free elections.
He expressed disappointment that recent visitors to Cuba did not confront Castro on the continuing oppressive conditions on the island, specifically mentioning the recent visit of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
While in Havana, Specter denounced the House of Representatives by name for not removing the trade embargo on Cuba but gave no hint that the Castro regime was under any obligation to ease its harsh one-party rule or its cooperation with drug traffickers or terrorists.
Vermillion reflected Klayman’s concern regarding the Bush administration’s Cuban policy, indicating a desire to hold the president accountable to what he has promised in the past.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to uphold the president’s commitment [to a free Cuba] … until there are free elections in Cuba and the release of political prisoners,” Vermillion declared.
“I don’t know of any country where a country abandoned dictatorship without pressure. … Democracy rarely follows business,” he observed. “My boss (Diaz-Balart) says that first there is the whole spectrum of political freedom, and then the business will come.”
Despite the substantial pressure from the business community and powerful political circles, as well as the lack of assistance from the human-rights industry, Klayman remains optimistic.
“I’m confident we’ll get justice,” Klayman concluded.