Costa Rican Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall’Anese, angered over being detained at the MiamiInternationalAirport last week, wants the officials who stopped and questioned him prosecuted.
Dall’Anese said he was deprived of his liberty for almost an hour while officials questioned him about his identity.
The top Tico prosecutor was on his way to Washington to attend to a variety of functions, including a meeting with other Central American attorneys general at the invitation of U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, when he was paged by officials on the Miami airport’s loudspeaker.
After presenting both a diplomatic passport and a standard Costa Rican passport with a valid U.S. visa, Dall’Anese was taken to a holding area, a room with numerous other people undergoing questioning, including at least one who was handcuffed, he said.
After some questioning, the officials informed the chief prosecutor that they had the wrong Costa Rican named Dall’Anese.
“I said that was impossible. The only other Dall’Anese in Costa Rica is my son Francisco,” said Dall’Anese, whose name is of Italian origin. “At that point, I felt afraid. The police were lying, and if they could lie about that, they could lie about other things as well.”
The chief prosecutor said he believes he was stopped to prevent him on his mission to interview a witness, who is a European in U.S. custody, in a case involving Costa Rica.
Dall’Anese would not reveal the name of the person or the nature of the case, but the daily La Nación said the case was that of Alcatel, the French telecommunications company accused of bribing Costa Rican officials, including former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez, to obtain a contract.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica denied that officials had stopped Dall’Anese for anything other than a routine security check.
“We want to clarify that Mr. Dall’Anese was not selected for personal reasons nor because of his professional position of chief prosecutor of Costa Rica,” said the statement.“
We can assure that this incident is not in any way related to the case to which he makes reference.”
Zachery Mann, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, “We thought we had an issue that might have been related to this person that turned out not to be the case.”
Asked if it were a case of mistaken identity, Mann said: “It could have been.”
Both Mann and the embassy statement said that Dall’Anese was not detained, but the prosecutor said when they told him he was not detained, he asked if he could leave and was refused.
Mann said Dall’Anese was held up for 31 minutes before being given admission to the United States.
But Dall’Anese said he was granted admission to the country only after he expressed his intention to return to Costa Rica.
“They had to stamp me as admitted; otherwise, they would have had to deport me.”
An official escorted Dall’Anese to the airline desk, where Dall’Anese paid an additional $100 to change his airline ticket for a departure the following day.
Dall’Anese then checked into his hotel.
Costa Rican chargé d’affaires Peter Brennan heard about the incident and left an apology on the hotel telephone answering machine.
But Dall’Anese was not satisfied.
“If there had been good faith on the part of Mr. Brennan, he would have done something to resolve the situation. He had 10 hours to respond,” said Dall’Anese.
Early this week, both the Legislative Assembly and the Costa Rican courts condemned the incident.
Dall’Anese said that although the embassy apologized in a statement, he hasn’t received any apology personally.
“The state of hysteria that the United States is living is leading them to do damage to relations with friendly people and neighbors by violating their rights, to lose the rule of law and that is what the terrorists want,” said Dall’Anese. “The terrorists are winning the war.”
Mann said 25,000 people enter the U.S. through Miami every day. “We’re tasked to protect the country.”