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Hijacked Cuban airliner seized to help pay award

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 22, 2003

MIAMI -- The ex-wife of a Cuban spy had a hijacked Cuban airliner seized Friday so she could collect part of a $27.1-million court award she won against Cuba under an antiterrorism law.

The move came as the Cuban government asked U.S. authorities to immediately return the plane, its six-member crew, 24 passengers and six alleged hijackers.

Monroe County sheriff's deputies served a court order at Key West International Airport and secured the plane for a future auction to benefit Ana Margarita Martinez, said sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin.

Martinez won the punitive damages in 2001, when a judge ruled that she was used as a political pawn by her ex-husband, Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque, and the Cuban government. Roque returned to Cuba before he was indicted in absentia for being part of a Cuban spy ring.

Martinez's attorney, Fernando Zulueta, didn't know the value of the twin-engine Douglas DC-3, a plane not made since the 1940s.

The six men accused of hijacking the plane are jailed without bail on federal air piracy charges. Some requested asylum, and U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez has said some of the passengers and crew, who are being questioned at Krome Detention Center, may also ask to stay.

Doctors say Graham looks okay for presidential run

WASHINGTON -- Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Friday his recovery from heart surgery is proceeding well enough that doctors told him they see no reason he can't go ahead with his planned run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The 66-year-old Graham said in an interview that recent medical tests have indicated his heart is performing well after the Jan. 31 procedure at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Surgeons did bypass surgery for two clogged arteries and repaired a small hole between two upper chambers of his heart.

"I asked the doctor, from a medical standpoint, is there any reason that running for or serving as president would be a problem," Graham said after taking a battery of tests this week. Graham said the doctor told him no.

"I do not anticipate any new information," Graham said.

The senator's aides have indicated there would be an announcement from doctors next week after Graham has completed eight weeks of recovery.

Graham plans to formally announce his candidacy in mid-April.

Sheriff's suspension ended by governor

TALLAHASSEE -- A North Florida sheriff who was suspended in August for being drunk on the job has been reinstated by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Lafayette County Sheriff Dwayne Walker has undergone treatment for alcoholism and will return to duty, a Bush spokesman said Friday. Walker will be randomly screened for alcohol use.

Walker was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after numerous incidents of drunken behavior, including slapping a female companion in a bar, flashing his badge, and bragging that "he was on a job for the governor."

Bush spokeswoman Jill Bratina said the governor reviewed a psychiatrist's report that said Walker's alcoholism was in remission.

"The governor has no reason to continue the suspension," Bratina said. "This is an elected office. If the constituents are unhappy with his performance, they can take that into consideration in November of 2004."

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