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Alleged torturer could be deported

His nickname was "el Enfermero": the Nurse. His alleged occupation was torturer, for Cuba's communist leaders.

Eugenio de Sosa Chabau is 85 now, but he remembers his tormentor with photographic clarity, down to the military-style khaki shirt and trousers he wore. Four times, he says, the Nurse attached electrodes to his temples, and 10 times to his sexual organs.

"You feel like an explosion in your head, and you lose consciousness," recalled de Sosa, a former Havana newspaper publisher.

De Sosa emigrated to the United States, after 21 harsh years of incarceration. A decade ago, while visiting an ailing aunt in Hialeah, he was startled to see a familiar figure, now dressed in the whites of a nursing home employee.

It was "el Enfermero" _ Eriberto Mederos, who joined the Cuban boat lift to the United States in 1984 and became a citizen in 1993.

In a case hailed as a landmark by Cuban-Americans and human rights activists, Mederos, 78, has been charged with obtaining his American citizenship fraudulently by lying about his former occupation: administrator of electric shock therapy to political opponents of the Castro regime, who were confined to the Mazorra psychiatric hospital.

Mederos was arrested Sept. 4, and is free on $500,000 bail.

In the past, Mederos has asserted that he did nothing wrong.

"I only did what the doctors ordered," Mederos said in a 1992 newspaper interview. "I never did anything on my own account."

Slightly built, hawk-nosed and now bald, the elderly Cuban-American seemed befuddled as he stood before U.S. Magistrate Ted Bandstra for a recent hearing. Although manacled and under arrest, he tried to walk out of the courtroom.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Tamen, Mederos, if found guilty, could face revocation of his citizenship, a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of $250,000. If stripped of his citizenship, he could be deported, but Cuba would have to agree to accept him first.

"This individual should never have been admitted to the United States and allowed to become a citizen," Tamen said.

Allegations about Mederos' past were detailed in a published 1991 study that alleged wholesale abuses of psychiatry in Cuba to punish and neutralize opponents of the communist leadership. Surviving patients of the mental hospital where Mederos worked claim he administered the electro-shocks with a smile on his face.

De Sosa believes he was tortured in 1977 because years earlier, he tried to warn President Kennedy, a Choate classmate, about the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba. He doesn't plan to attend a coming hearing on the case.

"I'm 85, my heart is okay, but when I see a guy like that, I might go crazy," de Sosa said. "I might die of a heart attack or something."

According to U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., such unsavory neighbors are far more numerous than most Americans realize.

"Currently, the United States is home to many immigrants who have fled torture, terror or war crimes in their home country," Foley said.

Already, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has stepped up its pursuit of accused torturers, with at least 26 arrests in Florida in the past year.

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