By Kathia Martinez | ASSOCIATED PRESS
PANAMA CITY - Five Cuban exiles who had been accused of plotting to kill Fidel Castro were sentenced Tuesday to seven to eight years in prison.
Luis Posada Carriles and the other men were arrested after Castro announced a plot to kill him during an Ibero-American summit here in November 2000, though Panamanian courts ruled there was not enough evidence to accuse the men of attempted murder.
Besides Posada, sentences were handed down against Cuban-Americans Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remon, as well as Cuban resident in Panama Cesar Matamoros, and Jose Hurtado, Posada’s driver.
Posada, accused of being the ringleader, and Jimenez were sentenced to eight years for endangering public safety and falsifying documents, the Supreme Court said.
Novo, Remon and Matamoros were sentenced to seven years for endangering public safety, the court said.
Hurtado received four years as an accomplice. Counting time served, he could go free within weeks.
The five were exonerated of the most serious charge facing them, possession of explosives.
Posada, a veteran of the U.S.-run Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, is one of the men most wanted by Castro’s government.
Posada was tried and acquitted there of bombing a Cuban jetliner. He has acknowledged organizing Cuban hotel bombings that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people in 1997.
In February 1986, Remon pleaded guilty in the United States to participating in a 1979 bombing at Cuba’s mission to the United Nations and of conspiring to kill the Cuban ambassador.
Novo was convicted in the 1976 murder of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., but the conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted in a second trial.