MANAGUA, Nicaragua — U.S. mercenary Eugene Hasenfus today refused to make a statement before a revolutionary tribunal trying him for terrorism and conspiracy for his role in aiding contra rebels.
It was not known if the 45-year-old former Marine--who today made his first appearance before the People's Tribunal since his Oct. 20 arraignment--would speak during a later session of the court, which recessed for 24 hours today.
Hasenfus, of Marinette, Wis., had been scheduled to appear before the three-man tribunal, composed of a lawyer, truck driver and laborer, to answer charges lodged by the Sandinista government.
At the session, Hasenfus was not allowed to confer with his lawyer or talk with his wife and brother.
He was asked by Justice Minister Rodrigo Reyes to verify a document the minister said was a confession written by Hasenfus.
Hasenfus' Nicaraguan attorney, Enrique Sotelo Borgen, objected, saying, "This is not the place for that."
Tribunal President Reynaldo Monterrey then called a daylong recess to consider the defense objection.
Earlier in the session, Hasenfus asked through an interpreter if he had to answer questions or had the right to remain silent.
"The prisoner must answer all questions, if only yes or no," replied Monterrey. "It is not the job of the court to explain things the defense attorney should already have explained to you."
Little Time With Attorney
The tribunal president said Hasenfus had been given ample opportunity to talk with Sotelo Borgen.
But Sotelo Borgen told reporters that he had not been able to talk to his client since Tuesday, when Hasenfus was brought to the tribunal for a private meeting with court officials.
Hasenfus, who is being held in a prison outside Managua, was a crewman on a rebel supply flight shot down 0ct. 5 over southern Nicaragua by Sandinista forces. He was captured the next day and faces 30 years in prison if convicted. The three other crew members, two of them Americans, died when the C-123 cargo plane crashed.
The tribunal said it will hear Saturday from Jose Fernando Canales, the Sandinista soldier who shot down the aircraft with a shoulder-held surface-to-air missile, making him an instant national hero.
Next week, the tribunal is to view a videotape of the CBS program "60 Minutes" in which Hasenfus told interviewer Mike Wallace that he took part in CIA-coordinated arms drops to contra rebels from Ilopango military base in El Salvador and the U.S.-built Aguacate base in Honduras.
The United States has denied any official role in the arms drops.