BELFAST (AP) – A Stockton Springs woman has sued Fidel Castro, alleging that he caused the wrongful death of her pilot father after he was shot down over Cuba and imprisoned in 1963 while on a covert mission.
Sherry Sullivan filed her lawsuit in May in Waldo County Superior Court, but Justice Nancy Mills delayed action until last week while considering how to serve papers to the defendants, who also include Castro’s brother Raul, the Cuban army and the Republic of Cuba.
Mills decided to send a certified Spanish translation of the suit to Cuba by registered mail, but has yet to receive proof of its delivery to the parties named.
The suit alleges that Geoffrey Francis Sullivan, who was 29 at the time, was captured after being shot down and that he died while being held in a Cuban jail for political prisoners. His daughter contends that Fidel Castro had “intentionally, unlawfully and with complete disregard for human life” caused Sullivan’s imprisonment and eventual death.
No formal record of the death was ever recorded. The Social Security Administration has declared that Sullivan is dead, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has listed him as missing in action.
“I don’t have any actual proof that my father was executed, but I believe he was,” Sullivan told the Bangor Daily News.
The lawsuit says Geoffrey Sullivan and New York newspaperman Alexander Irwin Rorke Jr., who was believed to be a CIA operative, took part in numerous anti-Castro operations in the three years leading up to their disappearance.
The last known sighting of the pair was when they took off from Mexico on Oct. 1, 1963, in a twin-engine Beechcraft. A month earlier, Sullivan and Rorke allegedly had taken part in a bombing run over Cuba, an act that received widespread news coverage that identified both men as being involved.
Sullivan, 52, said she has devoted her life to “uncovering the truth” about her father but was stymied in her repeated attempts to gather information from government agencies. She has more than 100,000 pages of documents related to the case, she said.
Her suit states that she “has credible information from a variety of independent, identified, sources that her father was captured and held by Fidel Castro and the government of Cuba” in violation of international law.
The suit says Castro and his co-defendants are liable under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which allows victims of states such as Cuba that have been identified as sponsors of terrorism to sue for damages.
In recent years, state courts have ruled in a number of wrongful death claims against the Castro regime, according to Sullivan.
Damages have been paid from Cuban assets frozen by the U.S. government shortly after the Castro revolution, Sullivan said. As of the end of 2005, some $270 million in Cuban assets were frozen in U.S. bank accounts.