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4 linked to Castro death plot in court
( 2003-09-04 13:22) (Agencies)

Four Cuban exiles accused of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro appeared in a Panamanian court Wednesday for the first day of a three-day preliminary hearing.

Pedro Remon Rodriguez (2nd L) is escorted to a car from the Maritime Tribunal after the first day of a preliminary hearing for four Cuban-Americans in Panama City, Panama Sept 3, 2003.   [AP]
Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remon were arrested after the Cuban president denounced a plot to kill him during an Ibero-American summit that was held in Panama's capital in November 2000.

Local courts ruled there wasn't enough evidence to try the four Cuban exiles for attempted murder, but Panamanian authorities said the men had gathered explosives in the country.

Wednesday's proceedings began amid a small but spirited protest that saw students, workers and Indian leaders march around the courthouse carrying pro-Castro signs and shouting slogans condemning the defendants.

Later, a group of the Cuban exiles' friends and family members arrived, forcing police to separate the two groups of demonstrators.

The defendants have denied any involvement in a plot to kill Castro and claimed they came to Panama from Costa Rica because they had been told that a senior security aide to the Cuban president, Gen. Eduardo Delgado, planned to defect in this country.

The reading of evidence and other documents surrounding the case is expected to take until Friday, after which the judge will have up to 30 days to decide whether the defendants should stand trial.

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