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Panama Military Frees U.S. Envoy After 8 Hours

September 15, 1987|From Times Wire Services

PANAMA CITY — The Panamanian military on Monday released an American diplomat who was detained eight hours earlier during an illegal anti-government march at which a protester was shot to death, the U.S. Embassy said.

A spokeswoman said the embassy planned to lodge a diplomatic protest over the detention of David Miller, an embassy economic counselor.

Embassy Press Secretary Cynthia Farrell said that Miller was held incommunicado and that his repeated attempts to invoke diplomatic immunity were "totally disregarded."

Farrell said Miller was observing the protest march in the working-class neighborhood of San Miguelito when detained.

She rejected a report in the Monday edition of La Critica, a newspaper close to the government, saying that Miller took part in violence during the march by about 3,000 people on Sunday afternoon.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman said the United States views the incident with great concern.

"The action by Panamanian authorities was completely unwarranted, and we will be protesting," he said.

"Our embassy officer was carrying out normal responsibilities associated with his official duties," Redman said. He said Miller was not physically mistreated.

Carlos Efrain Guzman, a 49-year-old protester, was shot to death during Sunday's demonstration by gunmen who also threatened foreign journalists.

Opposition groups charged that the gunmen were supporters of Panama's military strongman, Gen. Manuel A. Noriega.

The detention of Miller was the latest in a series of rows between the United States and Panama since protests, directed mainly at Noriega, erupted in Panama several months ago.

The United States decided in July to suspend aid to Panama.

Panamanian officials have accused the United States of trying to destabilize Panama to prevent the scheduled handover of remaining control of the Panama Canal to Panama in the year 2000.

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