A U.S. magistrate refused yesterday to release Jorge A. Zimeri-Safle, the Guatemalan businessman whose U.S. jail term has ended but who is wanted in Guatemala in connection with the murder of a naval officer.
Magistrate Peter R. Palermo ordered Zimeri held at least until next Monday, when attorneys for the 34-year-old Guatemalan and the U.S. government are scheduled to argue whether provisions of the 1903 Guatemalan-U.S. extradition treaty permit Zimeri's release on bail pending the outcome of Guatemala's bid to extradite him on the murder charge.
Zimeri, who some believe is an international terriorist, has been fighting the extradition on grounds that the murder charge is trumped-up and designed to secure his return to Guatemala, where he says government agents will torture and execute him for his past political opposition to the current military regime.
Zimeri has been imprisoned in the United states, including the District of Columbia jail, for the last year for his conviction of possessing a handgun while he was an illegal alien in this country. He was paroled on that charge yesterday, but it turned out to be a hollow victory when palermo refused Zimeris attorney's request to release him immediately on a personal recognizance bond.
Zimeri, a once-wealthy, American-educated mechanical engineer who ran a Guatemalan hosiery mill until a 1975 assassination attempt was made on him, has sought political asylum in the United States.
Although some Washington officials believe he deserves help in his fight to stay out of the Central American country, others think his political opposition in Guatemala did not end with mere rhetoric. As a result, there is an intragovernment, dispute over what to do with Zimeri.
Zimeri, who holds a U.S. patent on a recoiless machine pistol, was taken from Washington to Miami and Monday to testify before a federal grand jury. One of Zimeri's attorneys, Joseph Mincberg, said he was told by Justice Department prosecutors that the grand jury here is investigating "organized crime assassinations."
Zimeri has refused to testify before the grand jury and his attorneys have said he would have invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he had been called before the jury.
In court yesterday another of Zimeri's attorneys, Edward R. Shohat, told Palermo that Zimeri would be a good bail risk.