The Panamanian government has announced the arrest of two Americans and five Panamanians on charges of subversion after holding the Americans incommunicado for nine days.
In a televised press conference Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Issac Chang Vega described the Americans -- Thomas J. Bleming, 33, of Dozier, Ala., and Francisco Bermudes, 30, of Miami -- as "Vietnam war veterans" belonging to "a group of mercenaries hired and brought to the country" by Panamanian plotters. He said they were arrested Oct. 15.
U.S. officials said they were not allowed to see the Americans until yesterday. Panama's criminal code puts a 24-hour limit on holding prisoners in isolation.
One of the arrested Panamanians, Luiz Martinz, was the subject of a campaign here earlier this week by the Washington-based, nongovernment Panamanian Committee for Human Rights.
The committee reported Martinz was seized on Monday and in letters to Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights it called for efforts to release him.
Martinz is a leader of the Panamenista Party of former president Arnulfo Arias. The attorney general said Martinz provided $1,500 for the purchase of arms from a group in Costa Rica that included four other Americans not apprehended.