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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Panama pardons Castro 'plotters'
Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso
Moscoso announced the pardons before leaving office
The president of Panama has pardoned four men accused of attempting to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Cuba had warned it would cut diplomatic ties with Panama if President Mireya Moscoso pardoned the men.

On Monday Panama recalled its ambassador from Havana in response to the threat.

The men - all Cuban emigres - were convicted and jailed in April for threatening public security and falsifying documents.

They were not charged with attempted murder as there was said to be a lack of evidence.

Explosives

The names of Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remon were on a list of presidential pardons announced by Mrs Moscoso less than a week before she leaves office.

It was not immediately clear when the men might be freed, though some local media reports said they had already been flown out of the country, possibly to Miami.

At a summit in Panama in November 2000, Mr Castro alleged there was a plot to kill him.

Six men were arrested - five Cubans and a Panamanian.

Fidel Castro holds up pictures of his alleged assassination plotters
Castro holds up pictures of the men he alleges tried to assassinate him
Explosives were found in a case, but the anti-Castro activists denied plotting to kill the Cuban leader.

The defendants said they were in Panama to help a Cuban general who had supposedly planned to seek political asylum.

Earlier this year, Cuba said the sentences handed out to the men, of seven and eight years, were too lenient.

Cuba had tried, but failed, to extradite some of the Cuban exiles, including the alleged ringleader, Luis Posada, 76, who has been wanted by Havana for many years.

He is accused of a string of offences, including an attack on a Cuban passenger plane which crashed off the coast of Barbados in 1976.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"Both men pardoned by Panama's president after just five months in jail"



SEE ALSO:
Panama-Cuba 'pardon' row worsens
23 Aug 04  |  Americas
Cuba slams Castro 'killers' rule
21 Apr 04  |  Americas
New petition for Cuba changes
03 Oct 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Panama
19 Aug 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
24 Apr 03  |  Country profiles


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