EL PASO, Texas, Sept 27 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge has ruled that anti-Castro Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles may not be deported to Cuba or Venezuela, which has requested his extradition for trial in a 1976 Cuban airliner bombing, a government spokeswoman said on Tuesday.Immigration Judge William Abbott found in a written decision on Monday that Posada, a former CIA operative accused of masterminding the bombing in Venezuela which killed 73 people, faced the threat of torture in those countries and therefore could not be returned under the United Nations Convention Against Torture."The judge’s decision did not rule out the removal of Mr. Posada to another country," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said."We are carefully reviewing the decision to determine how we will proceed in compliance with this ruling. In the meantime, Mr. Posada will remain in ICE custody," Zamarripa added.The Venezuelan embassy in Washington had no immediate comment about the ruling.Posada, 77, has been held by the United States since May for illegally coming into the country across the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas. He withdrew an earlier asylum request during hearings in August, but his lawyers have said he will apply for U.S. citizenship.He has denied involvement in the 1976 bombing, but has admitted working against Castro and to a role in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.In a hearing on Monday, U.S. government lawyers told Abbott they had no evidence Posada would be tortured in Venezuela or Cuba, but they expressed reservations about Venezuela’s justice system and, under President Hugo Chavez, the country’s "increasingly tight" relations with Cuba.Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro say Posada is a terrorist and have accused the Bush administration of protecting him because of his links to the CIA.
The Venezuelan government issued an angry statement after Monday’s hearing in which it said it does not torture prisoners and accused the Bush administration of having a "double standard in its so-called war on terrorism."