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Nicaraguan Tribunal Orders Hasenfus to Take Stand Today

October 31, 1986|United Press International

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — A Nicaraguan tribunal Thursday ordered American air crewman Eugene Hasenfus to testify today, probably on his statements that the U.S. government directed the supply operation for the rebels fighting to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.

Hasenfus, 45, of Marinette, Wis., is charged with terrorism, criminal association and violation of public security laws. He was captured Oct. 6 by government troops after parachuting from his crashing plane, loaded with weapons for the contras.

The prosecution asked the People's Tribunal that is trying Hasenfus to summon him to testify before the court "as soon as possible." The court then ordered Hasenfus to appear today. The session probably will be public.

The tribunal also agreed to view a tape of a CBS Television "60 Minutes" interview with Hasenfus, in which he said he was running guns and thought he was working for the CIA.

In Thursday's ruling, the court also agreed to have experts examine the flight logs and other documents captured from the plane.

Hasenfus' testimony is expected to be an account of his work for a rebel supply network based in El Salvador. In press interviews, he has said he believed the CIA or another U.S. government agency backed the operation.

Government prosecutor Ivan Villavicencio presented as evidence more than 100 business and identification cards, lists of phone numbers, credit cards, flight logs and other papers and documents.

"We are studying the evidence presented," said Reynaldo Monterrey, chief of the tribunal. He and two government ministry workers make up the tribunal--which acts as judge and jury.

The U.S. government denies any official connection to the operations.

Hasenfus' Nicaraguan lawyer, Enrique Sotelo Borgen, filed a motion objecting to calling Hasenfus to the stand today, introduction of the documents as evidence and use of the "60 Minutes" tape. There was no ruling on the motion.

The six Sandinista soldiers who shot down Hasenfus' C-123 cargo plane and captured him were ordered to give their statements on Saturday.

In Thursday's ruling, the court also agreed to have experts examine the flight logs and other documents captured from the plane, as well as the weapons and communications equipment found.

Justice Minister Rodrigo Reyes said the government is confident of a conviction. "Our case is solid," he said.

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