Raúl Gutiérrez Sánchez, a Cuban national recently acquitted of charges of plotting terrorist attacks for the Islamic State, reportedly began a final voyage home on Tuesday after Cuba refused to allow him back in the country.
Gutiérrez was tried for his alleged crimes in Colombia, which was forced to keep him at the Bogotá airport for hours following Cuba’s rejection.
This is Gutiérrez’s third deportation from Colombia after entering the country illegally three times. Authorities believe he most recently made his way into the country across the Venezuelan border.
A judge acquitted Gutiérrez last week on charges of terrorism, arguing that the prosecution did not offer evidence of any preparatory acts and that Colombia cannot imprison a person based on social media postings. Gutiérrez had posted extensively on Whatsapp and Telegram about planning the assassinations of several left-wing Colombia leaders, including the head of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, according to prosecutors. In one conversation prosecutors said occurred with an informant, Gutiérrez reportedly said, “There are no cojones left in this world to do justice. Only ISIS does anything.”
Gutiérrez, through his attorneys, repeatedly denied being Muslim or having any ties to the Islamic State. He instead claims he is an extremist working with a group he called Justice Movement 51, which he provided no evidence for existing.
Gutiérrez possesses only Cuban citizenship and has no visa or other legal right to be in any other country.
Cuba’s imposition on Colombia, even if concluded on Tuesday, adds to growing concerns about the Castro regime’s lack of respect for the sovereignty of its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. The incident comes a week after Cuban dissident Daniel Llorente, arrested and beaten repeatedly for publicly waving a U.S. flag, told Breitbart News that Cuban government agents forced him on a plane to Guyana against his will, threatening him with prison if he returns. Reports in local media in Guyana suggest the government there had no knowledge that Llorente was there before reporters began to inquire.
Cuba is more commonly accused of violating the sovereignty of Venezuela, where former Chávez insiders say an army of nearly 100,000 Cuban regime agents is currently stationed. Human rights advocates have referred to Cuba’s actions in Venezuela as “colonial domination.”
Colombian government officials put Gutiérrez on a plane to Havana on Thursday following his acquittal, which exonerated him of ties to terrorism but not of being in the country illegally. According to the Argentine news outlet Infobae, Gutiérrez flew to Cuba but authorities did not allow him to leave the airport and forced him on a flight back. Once in Bogotá again, Colombian authorities kept him in a “sterile zone” at the airport but did not allow him into Colombia proper.
“The failure to admit Mr. Raúl Gutiérrez Sánchez was a decision made in the internal processes of Cuban migration authorities,” Colombia’s immigration agency said in a statement Sunday. The agency “made the decision to transfer Gutiérrez Sánchez back to the city of Bogotá, where he will remain under the custody of our officials.”
Comunicado de prensa de Migración Colombia pic.twitter.com/O7MEyIpAPI
— Migración Colombia (@MigracionCol) May 26, 2019
The Colombian network Caracol TV reported that Colombian officials sent Gutiérrez home with an expired passport, thus preventing him from entering the country. As a Cuban citizen with no other foreign affiliations, however, Caracol did not explain how a passport would be necessary for him to return to the only place where it is legal for him to be.
Caracol also aired a brief interview with Gutiérrez, who said Cuban police told him he “was entering the country illegally, and that [he] could harm Cuban national security.”
Authorities appeared to relent on Tuesday, as video surfaced of Colombian officials once again putting Gutiérrez Sánchez on a plane to Havana. Gutiérrez flashed a peace sign as he boarded the plane after shaking hands with the migration officials who were monitoring him.
Migración Colombia realizó la expulsión del ciudadano cubano Raúl Gutiérrez Sánchez, quien era acusado de planear atentados en Bogotá y de tener nexos con el Estado Islámico, fue absuelto por un juez @noscogiolanoche @MigracionCol #NosCogióLaNoche #NCLN pic.twitter.com/mS0gGOUxmO
— Liliana Castaño (@lilianacs93) May 28, 2019
Colombian officials confirmed he would not return and was officially banned from entering the country at all for the next decade.
Gutiérrez had earned it. While he was not convicted on charges of terrorism, Tuesday’s was Gutiérrez’s third deportation from Colombia for entering the country illegally. His social media chatter about seeking to conduct terrorist attacks began after his third illegal entry into the country.
At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said they had evidence that Gutiérrez had been conversing with an unnamed informant about working on behalf of ISIS. He allegedly suggested Marxist targets like former Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro and the head of the FARC, the terrorist known as “Timochenko” (also a failed presidential candidate).
During his indictment, Gutiérrez told the court, “I am a fool … a disturbed person due to my personal situation with emotional loss, affected by exile, my wife’s abandonment, the loss of my family, a modern society that is occupied with enslaving us but not with caring for the human being as such, disturbed by poison on the internet, really I’m a pathetic person.”
Infobae later reported that he did admit to interacting with people he believed to be jihadis on social media, but that he claimed to merely do so to confuse police and, potentially, make money off of ISIS members who believed he would use it for jihad.