DEFENSE ATTORNEY LAMENTS POLITICIZED TERROR CASE

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
09LAPAZ710 15 May 2009 Secreto Embassy La Paz

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10 YEARS AFTER CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT
TAGS: ASEC, PGOV, PREL, PTER, PINR, BL
SUBJECT: DEFENSE ATTORNEY LAMENTS POLITICIZED TERROR CASE

REF: A. LA PAZ 659
B. LA PAZ 635

Classified By: A/EcoPol Chief Joe Relk for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

1. (S) Ministry of Foreign Relations Legal Advisor Paola
Melendres (strictly protect) told PolOff May 11 that her
close friend and the former defense attorney for Santa Cruz
terror cell suspect Elot (alternative spelling Elod) Toasa
told her there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Toasa for
"standing up an illegal militia" and on a number of weapons
and conspiracy charges. However, she contended there was not
enough evidence to support the government’s claim that the
group planned to assassinate Morales "or anyone else."

Sign Here for Political Prosecutions


2. (S) The former defense attorney allegedly told Melendres
that the government has been trying frantically to get
Toasa’s testimony to match that of the other surviving cell
suspect, Mario Tadic (reftels). She claimed Tadic signed an
affidavit linking a broad range of opposition leaders to
financing or otherwise supporting the cell almost immediately
after the government raid on it April 16, resulting in the
deaths of three other alleged plotters. Melendres explained
that her defense attorney friend and other contacts in the
investigation told her the government has been waiting to
release Tadic’s testimony for weeks hoping it could get a
similar confession from Toasa and fearing inconsistencies
would discredit the coming charges against opposition
leaders. She claimed Toasa continues to refuse to sign
anything that is not translated into his native Hungarian.
Melendres claimed Toasa’s former defense attorney
characterized this as a "stalling tactic," as the affidavit
in question was verbally translated to him by a Hungarian
official.

GOB Begins to Leak Tadic’s Testimony; Target Costas


------

3. (U) On May 13, the government released parts of Tadic’s
testimony alleging Costas met with the alleged terror cell’s
leader three times and vaguely discussed "organizing
something." Costas denied Tadic’s account outright.

Caught Between Ministerial Maneuverings


4. (S) Despite being replaced in late April by a private
attorney, the former defense attorney continues to be
pressured by the Ministry of Government to sign an affidavit
claiming Toasa implicated former Santa Cruz Civic Committee
President Branco Marinkovic, Santa Cruz Prefect (governor)
Ruben Costas, and other opposition leaders in the alleged
terrorist cell. She also allegedly told Melendres Toasa
never confessed to knowing let alone linking the opposition
figures to the group. Consistent with what Tadic’s former
defense attorney told us (reftel a), Taosa’s former attorney
told Melendrez she was happy to be relieved from the case
considering the legal irregularities and political pressure.
She added, however, that she was also being pressured from
the Ministry of Justice to sign an affidavit alleging Toasa
had been violently beaten. Believing the security forces
were not excessive in their treatment of Toasa while she was
his defense attorney, she has also refused to cooperate with
the Ministry of Justice on the matter, placing her at
considerable professional risk.

5. (S) Melendres claimed the dueling affidavits are part of
an internal fight between the two ministries, with the
Justice Ministry trying to prove its independence and some of
its leaders trying to undermine Government Minister Alfredo
Rada. She likened the internal struggle to the downfall of
Hydrocarbons Minister Santos Ramirez on corruption charges in
January 2008, with Foreign Minister Choquehuanca, among
others, urging President Morales to "sacrifice him for the
good of the movement." She claimed Choquehuanca hoped
Ramirez’s exit would strengthen his standing with powerful
social movements. "This practice of using legal cases for
personal political vendettas is nothing new, but the MAS
(ruling party) has taken it to a new level."
URS