By LISA ORKIN EMMANUEL | Associated Press Writer

A Cuban exile suspected of being a spy was deported Tuesday after a hunger strike to protest his detention, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

Juan Emilio Aboy, 43, was taken to Cuba on a U.S. government plane, which landed at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

Aboy had been held for three years without criminal charges but faces immigration charges. He has denied the espionage claims.

Grisel Ybarra, Aboy’s attorney, said neither she nor Aboy’s wife were informed that he was to be deported. She added that it may not be legal to deport someone without informing their legal council.

“Nobody knew,” Ybarra said. “The only thing I don’t understand is how Cuba accepted it.”

Aboy began his hunger strike on March 12, drinking only water to survive. He was demanding his release.

Ybarra has said he lost about 45 pounds and was hospitalized at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital over the weekend and forcibly given saline solution through an intravenous drip.

He was transported back to the Krome Detention Center in west Miami-Dade County late Monday, Ybarra said.

An immigration judge ordered him sent back to Cuba in December 2002 and Aboy had been fighting that order, ICE said.

“The removal of Aboy sends a clear message that ICE will not cease in its efforts to carry out removal orders as mandated by the law,” Michael Rozos, Florida’s field office director for detention and removal said in the statement.

Aboy was scheduled to be at a U.S. District Court hearing in Miami on Friday about whether the government had the legal authority to feed him via a feeding tube.

Federal investigators claim Aboy worked as a courier for the Miami-based Wasp Network in the 1990s and was ordered to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command, the military command for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Aboy, a Soviet-trained military diver, came to the United States in the 1994 rafter exodus.

Five spies went to trial after they were indicted in 1998 as part of the 14-member Wasp Network. All five admit being Cuban agents and were convicted in June 2001 of serving as unregistered agents of a foreign government. Evidence showed members of the group targeted U.S. military installations from Key West to Tampa and that the ring spied on Cuban exiles.

Three were sentenced to life in prison, one got 19 years, the other 15 years. All are appealing.

Cuba has made the five a cause celebre, calling them heroes.

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