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Omega 7 Defense Fund - Hudson Dispatch, Wednesday, October 7, 1987

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Posted by GET NJ on September 28, 2003 at 14:08:11:

Mayor aided murderer
Menendez glad to help an 'innocent man'

Hudson Dispatch
Wednesday, October 7, 1987

By Douglas Lavin

UNION CITY – Mayor Robert Menendez has contributed funds for a convicted Cuban-American terrorist and murderer wo was the kingpin of Omega 7.

Menendez, the city's first Cuban-American mayor, said he supports the use of violence and breaking the rule of law in the fight for a free Cuba, but also said his contribution made at a Friday fund-raiser was intended only to supply Eduardo Arocena with legal counsel.

"I endorse the fact that there are times when what one looks at as a law at a given time has to be broken," Menendez said, adding that the fight should be carried out "wherever the enemy may be."

Bernard F. Kenny, Menendez's Democratic running mate in the Assembly race to represent North Hudson's 33rd District, also was at the dinner, but said yesterday he did not know the event was a fundraiser or was linked to terrorists.

Kenny said public officials have an obligation to uphold the law.

"I think any public official has to take a strong stance on that," he said.

Jose O. Arango, the Cuban-born Republican assemblyman who is opposing Menendez and Kenny, said he would contribute to Arocena's legal defense if asked. Arango said he did not endorse illegal activity in the United State, but said he would contribute money to help ensure "an innocent man is not convicted."

Menendez took a similar stance and said Arocena needed a new trial because he did not have proper legal counsel during his trial.

Micahel L. Tabak, the asssitant U.S. attorney who was in charge of the prosecution, siad Arocena rejected a free, court appointed attorney from own of Manhattan's best law firms and instead chose two of his own attorneys, who represented him during the trial.

"The record is clear that Arocena was represented by counsel," Tabak said.

Arocena, a former New Jersey longshoreman, was convicted in 1984 of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy bombings and perjury.

In December 1985, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan denied an appeal, calling the government's case, which included 85 witnesses and "copius" physical evidence, "overwhelming and impressive."

The court also called Arocena the "kingpin" of Omega 7 and said the group financed its crimes of bombings and murder through drug trade and extortion.

Since 1973, Omega 7 has claimed responsibility for more that 30 terror bombings in New York, New Jersey and Miami. The bombings have targeted such groups as a pharmacy in Union City that sent medicine to Cuba and local travel agencies that booked flights for Cuban emigres to return to Cuba to visit their families.

Arocena was found guilty in November 1984 of 25 of 26 counts. He was convicted of organizing the murder of a Cuban attache in Queens and arranging bombings at Cuban, Soviet, Venezuelan, Mexican, and Nicaraguan missions in New York and Miami as well as at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.

Menendez said that as a public official he has an obligation to uphold the law here, but that he also has a responsibility "to listen to the people, if it is their belief collectively that this is a good man."

"I don't look at it that I am supporting 'a murderer,'" Menendez said, "I look on it that I am supporting a goal, which is the liberation of Cuba."

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