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Cuba Defaults in U.S. Civil Suit Over 3 Deaths

November 14, 1997|Associated Press

MIAMI — Cuba was ruled in default Thursday in a civil suit filed by the families of three Americans killed when the island's military jets shot down their planes.

It was the first case under a new anti-terrorism law to go to trial.

Cuba has refused to recognize U.S. jurisdiction and did not have a representative at the civil trial, leading to the default judgment by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King.

Aaron Podhurst, lead attorney for the families, noted that Cuba has defended itself in U.S. courts before and said the failure to appear is "nothing more than a recognition of what occurred here." He asked King for $79 million from Cuban assets frozen by the U.S. government.

Cuban MIGs shot down the planes Feb. 24, 1996. Three planes with the Cuban-exile group Brothers to the Rescue were chased, but one flown by Rescue leader Jose Basulto escaped.

A United Nations aviation panel ruled last year that the planes were shot down over international waters and Cuba violated international law.

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