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Ortega Assails Contra Aid, Labels Reagan 'Godfather'

October 19, 1986|Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega called President Reagan "the Godfather" on Saturday and said Reagan had in effect sentenced American Eugene Hasenfus to prison by approving $100 million in U.S. aid for the Nicaraguan rebels.

"Upon signing that law today, President Reagan is signing the death sentence not only of Nicaraguans but also of American citizens, like Misters Cooper and Sawyer, and also signing the prison sentence . . . for Hasenfus," the Nicaraguan president said in a nationally broadcast speech.

"We are all clear that the Godfather is Mr. Reagan," Ortega said, "and that Hasenfus and those who died were employees of the Godfather."

Hasenfus was captured Oct. 6 after a rebel supply plane was shot down over southern Nicaragua. William J. Cooper, identified as the plane's pilot, and Wallace Blaine Sawyer Jr. of Magnolia, Ark., died in the crash.

Earlier, the Nicaraguan government turned down a U.S. request to postpone Hasenfus' trial for two weeks.

But Ortega insisted that Hasenfus would receive a fair trial despite the approval of U.S. aid for the rebels, known as contras . The funding was contained in the omnibus spending bill approved earlier by Congress and signed Saturday by Reagan.

The Foreign Ministry said Friday that proceedings against Hasenfus would begin Monday, as planned.

"This decision corresponds to the firm determination of the government of Nicaragua to provide full carrying out of the guarantees of due process," the ministry said in a message to the U.S. Embassy in Managua.

Government officials have said Hasenfus would be charged Monday with violating laws governing the maintenance of order and public security.

The U.S. Embassy asked for a delay so Hasenfus' attorneys could study the case.

Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell said Friday that he would defend Hasenfus but that he had not yet spoken to the defendant.

After the charges are read Monday, the defense has three days to prepare its case. The trial is scheduled to last from eight to 10 days.

Nicaraguan officials have said all proceedings will be public.

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