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Woman's lawsuit targets Cuba

The daughter of a pilot killed during the Bay of Pigs invasion is suing for $112-million.

By Associated Press
Published November 16, 2004

MIAMI - The daughter of a CIA pilot shot down and executed by the Cuban government during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion repeatedly broke into tears Monday as she described her loving father and her 18-year crusade to recover his body.

Janet Weininger was testifying in her lawsuit seeking $112-million in damages from the Cuban government for her father's execution and for displaying his frozen body in a glass case at a morgue. She is suing under an antiterrorism law that lets the families of victims executed by state sponsors of terrorism seek damages.

Weininger said she wrote more than 200 letters and telegrams to Cuban President Fidel Castro trying to recover the body of her father, Alabama National Guard pilot Thomas "Pete" Ray. "You don't get an answer back, and you know this person has the keys to your life," Weininger said.

Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnic heard the case without a jury. Testimony took less than a day, but he didn't say when he would rule.

As in other similar lawsuits, the Cuban government has offered no defense.

There was no response to a message left Monday with the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.

In the Bay of Pigs invasion, about 1,500 exiles trained by the CIA in Guatemala charged the island in April 1961 in an attempt to overthrow Castro's 2-year-old communist government. The three-day invasion was a debacle; more than 1,000 invaders were captured, and about 100 were killed.

Weininger's father trained six dozen pilots for invasion flights from Nicaragua to Cuba. His B-26 was shot down less than 48 hours after the first landing in what Weininger thinks was a rescue mission, and he died of a gunshot wound to the right temple.

Ray's body wasn't flown north until 1979.

From the time her father disappeared without an official explanation, she quizzed relatives and began hanging out at the library to track down the names of people who served with her father. By college, she was flying to Miami to spend her free time looking for Bay of Pigs veterans who might know what happened to her father.

As an Air Force wife living in Germany, she became known in Congress and had dealings with the Czech Embassy before meeting a Bay of Pigs historian who gave her photographs of the bodies of her father and his co-pilot Leo Baker.

After a 1985 Miami radio interview, two Cuban men came forward to say her father had been shot in a medical unit set up at a sugar mill that served as Castro's military headquarters during the invasion.

[Last modified November 16, 2004, 00:39:15]

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