THE TRIBULATIONS OF JOE DOHERTY -- (BY ALEXANDER COCKBURN) (Extension of Remarks - August 03, 1990)

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in the House of Representatives



Orlando Bosch is a Cuban, convicted felon, a man once charged with masterminding the bombing of a civilian airliner in which 73 people died. On July 17 he was paroled in Miami and is now, somewhat relatively speaking, a free man. He has to wear an electronic ankle trace bracelet, can go outside only three hours a day, must not speak to anti-Castro militants, and has his phone tapped.

Joe Doherty is an Irishman, neither charged with nor convicted of any offense against U.S. criminal law. On June 18 he began his eighth year in a tiny cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan; he is now the longest-held prisoner in the history of that institution. No less than eight times--most recently only a few weeks ago in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit--he has prevailed in court and immigration and Naturalization Service hearings against attempts by the U.S. government to deport him.

Yet today, Bosch is free on parole and Doherty, denied bail, is confined to a matchbox cell in a prison never designed for long-term occupancy, hence offering none of the facilities other prisons are compelled to offer. See the double standard maintained by the Bush administration eager to pander to political friends in Miami's Cuban-American community, and in London.

Start with Bosch. In 1968, his anti-Castro group Accion Cubana blew up a Japanese freighter in Tampa, damaged a British vessel off Key West and bombed eight diplomatic or tourist offices in New York and Los Angeles. The aim was to punish nations doing business with Cuba. Bosch was convicted that same year of firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in Miami harbor and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. He was paroled four years later and in 1974 fled the country rather than honor a subpoena in a murder case. Though both the Venezeulan and Costa Rican governments offered to send him back as a parole violator, the Justice Department exhibited no interest in his return.

In June 1976, Bosch's Accion Cubana met in the Dominican Republic with other emigre organizations such as Alpha 66. They issued a `war communique' saying Cuban civilian airliners would be attacked. Later that year a Cubana airliner, en route from Venezuela to Havana, blew up in mid-air shortly after a takeoff from Barbados; 73 civilians died, including all of Cuba's Olympic fencing team.

Venezuela arrested Bosch and three others and charged them with the bombing. Bosch and two others were convicted then subsequently acquitted on appeal, but nonetheless held in prison. The other accused, Luis Posada Carriles, had escaped. In view of the Bush administration's later clemency toward Bosch, we should note that during the Iran-Contra scandal. Posada surfaced in the Ilopango base in El
Salvador, working alongside President Bush's old CIA buddy Felix Rodriguez in funneling illegal arms shipments to the Nicaraguan Contras. Mr. Bush was CIA director at the time Bosch and his conferees were hatching terror schemes in the Dominican Republic.

On his release from a Venezuelan prison in 1987, Bosch announced he was ready to `rejoin the struggle' and, regarding the Cubana bombing, that `all of Castro's airplanes are warplanes.' In 1988 he was released and returned to the U.S., where he was arrested as a parole violator. Cuba applied to have him deported to face proceedings, but the application was denied on the grounds that Bosch would not get a fair trial. In rejecting Bosch's request for political asylum in January 1989, the acting associate attorney general wrote that `For 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. . . . He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.'

In July, after a campaign by Cuban emigres in Miami in which President Bush's son Jeb expressed his support, Bosch was granted parole.

Joe Doherty was imprisoned on June 18, 1983, for having entered the U.S. illegally. The British government sought his extradition on charges arising from the shooting death of a member of the S.A.S., the British commando unit. In 1984, federal district Judge John Sprizzo held that Doherty could not be extradited under the then-existing treaty and, addressing himself explicitly to the death of the S.A.S. man, said that `The death of Captain Westmacott, while a most tragic event, occurred in the context of an attempted ambush of a British army patrol. It was the British response to that action that gave rise to Captain Westmacott's death. Had this conduct occurred during the course of more traditional military hostilities there could be little doubt that it would fall within the political offense exception.'

Though the history of Joe Doherty's legal battles is long. It is also simple. He has prevailed repeatedly in court battles and in Board of Immigration Appeal hearings. Under U.S. law he merits asylum, and should not be deported to the U.K., where he would not have the certainty of a fair trial. The force of this latter point was of course much enhanced last year by the revelations of perversions of justice in the case of the `Guilford Four,' released after many years in prison when a panel of British judges rules their convictions were not `safe.' Nonetheless, Attorney Generals Edwin Meese and now Richard Thornburgh have repeatedly controverted both federal courts and Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, and ordered Doherty's deportation, thus seeking to circumvent the law on asylum. As Rep. Henry J. Hyde wrote to Mr. Thornburgh in May: `I believe the handling of this case involves an indefensible violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the basic guarantees of equal justice and due processes of law. . . . The United States has never, ever, handled an extradition or deportation case the way it has handled this one.'

On June 29, a federal appeals court panel granted Doherty the right to apply for asylum here, thus handing the Justice Department yet another setback. The judges concluded that Mr. Thornburgh's reversal of his own INS Appeals Board decision had been improperly influenced by geopolitical and foreign-policy considerations. Though ample sureties have been offered, Doherty's lawyer, Mary Pike, received her copy of the Justice Department's letter to a New York judge urging denial of bail to Doherty on the same day Orlando Bosch was released.

So Doherty can't get bail, even though he manifestly doesn't want to flee, given that he is litigating his ability to stay in the U.S. Bosch got 10 years for bombing a Polish vessel and for conveying by telegraph threats to the president of Mexico and Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He violated parole and became a fugitive under U.S. law. Despite this, Bosch is released and Doherty held in his cell. The Irishman should hispanicize his name, make more influential friends in Miami and start threatening Fidel Castro. This is the essential extrajudicial factor he has overlooked.

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