Saturday, April 26, 2008

Costa Rica protests US airport security

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rica has suspended legal cooperation with the United States and filed a diplomatic protest over what it called the "disrespectful" treatment of its attorney general at the Miami International Airport.

In a letter describing the incident, Attorney General Francisco Dall'Anese said a security officer at the airport allowed him into the United States on April 23, but accompanied him to an airline counter to make sure he arranged a return flight for the next day.

The official was traveling to meet his U.S. counterpart, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and to attend a court hearing involving a man implicated in a corruption scandal in Costa Rica.
He said that after the check, a U.S. agent accompanied him to airline offices "to make sure of our departure."

Dall'Anese said Friday he was suspending all cooperation with U.S. prosecutors on judicial cases, including extraditions, until those responsible are punished and his government is reimbursed for the cost of the trip.

Costa Rica's Foreign Relations Department said it filed an "energetic" diplomatic note and called the security stop "an offense against our attorney general, an offense to all Costa Ricans."

The U.S. government said Dall'Anese had been subjected to a "routine security check" that is common when a passenger's name matches or is similar to a person of interest. But officials apologized nonetheless.

"We are investigating the circumstances and we have expressed our apologies to the Costa Rican government," the U.S. Embassy in San Jose said in a statement. "We never intended any disrespect for Dall'Anese, the government of Costa Rica or its citizens. We value the close relationship we have and we will do everything in our power to make sure it continues."

The Embassy said if it had known of the trip, it would have ensured that "all entrance courtesies would have been extended to Mr. Dall'Anese."

But Dall'Anese responded that "the apology of the U.S. Embassy is not sufficient."

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