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Castro calls spy case against U.S. couple 'ridiculous'

A retired State Department employee and his wife accused of spying for Cuba for three decades will appear in federal court Wednesday for a detention hearing, a case that Fidel Castro described as "quite ridiculous."

Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, who pleaded not guilty last week to charges of serving as illegal agents for Cuba and conspiring to deliver classified information to its government are being held in jail until Wednesday's hearing. Their attorney, Thomas Green, declined Sunday to comment.

But the former Cuban president opined on the case in his online column, Reflections by Comrade Fidel, a forum he uses to give his opinion of world events.

"Don't you all find the whole story about Cuban espionage quite ridiculous?" he asked. Castro didn't confirm or deny that the two were spies, but said he couldn't remember meeting them. The Myerses told investigators they met with Castro around New Year's Day in 1995, traveling through Mexico under the names of Jorge and Elizabeth. They said they met Castro in a small house where they were staying and that he spent the entire evening, about four hours, talking with them through an interpreter.

Castro wrote that he had "met during that time with thousands of Americans for various motives, individually or in groups, on occasion with several hundreds of them [. . .] so I could hardly remember details of a meeting with two people."

He pointed out that the Myerses say they got "lots of medals" from the government of Cuba, but that news reports suggest they weren't paid.

"We have never tortured anyone nor have we paid anyone to obtain any type of information," he wrote. "Those who one way or the other helped to protect the lives of Cuban citizens against terrorist plans and the plots . . . against the life of their leaders, many of which were perpetrated by several U.S. administrations, did so moved by the imperatives of their own consciousness and, in my opinion, they deserve every honor in this world."

He cited news reports that Kendall Myers tried to be "very prudent" when picking up or transmitting secrets to Cuba. He also comments on a diary kept by Gwendolyn – though investigators quoted from a diary that Kendall Myers kept during his first trip to Cuba in 1978 in which he writes that Castro is "certainly one of the great political leaders of our time."

"If all of this were true," Castro wrote. "I could not but admire [the] selfless and courageous behavior towards Cuba." He also questioned the timing of the arrests, noting they follow President Barack Obama's recent overtures to the Cuban government and the decision by the Organization of American States to lift Cuba's 47-year suspension from the group, allowing the country to rejoin. He called OAS' decision last week in Honduras a ''tremendous setback'' for the U.S., which objects to Cuba joining the organization without showing democratic reform.

"Perhaps what influenced upon the arrest was not only the tremendous setback [the U.S.] suffered in San Pedro Sula but also the news that contacts were taking place between the governments of the United States and Cuba over important matters of common interest," Castro wrote.

Those matters may include the resumption of migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba that were suspended in 2004. But Florida Sen. Mel Martinez has asked that no talks begin until Congress has considered the breach of security posed by the couple.

The State Department said the arrest was the result of a three-year investigation. The Myerses told investigators they stopped traveling out of the U.S. to meet their Cuban contacts after 2006 because they "got a little paranoid" that Kendall Myers' boss at the State Department had put him a "watch list." An indictment filed against the couple alleges that in 2006 they destroyed or disposed of "certain clandestine foreign agent tradecraft items," except for a shortwave radio they owned. The indictment notes the radio is the same make as one used by Ana Belen Montes, who is now doing 25 years in prison for spying for Cuba. And, the indictment notes, Kendall Myers knows Morse code.

The indictment seeks the return of $1.7 million Myers earned at the State Department and $174,867 in retirement savings. Castro, 82, sounded sympathetic.

"A whole campaign has already been launched against the married couple," he wrote. "They are portrayed as traitors who could be sanctioned to 35 years imprisonment, a sentence they will have to serve until they are more than 100 years old."

Herald translator Renato Perez contributed to this report.

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