Colombia’s high court denies extradition of FARC “jailer”

Colombia’s Supreme Court will not allow captured FARC operative Heli Mejia Mendoza AKA “Martin Sombra”—known as the guerilla army’s “jailer”—to be extradited to the United States. The high court found he committed no border-crossing crimes. “Sombra” spent 40 years of his life in the ranks for the guerrillas and managed several FARC prisoner camps. He was arrested in February 2008. The US want to try him for his alleged responsibility in the captivity of three US military contractors, who were held in the Colombian jungle for more than six years.

A US indictment maintains that “Sombra” was directly responsible for the harsh treatment of Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves—who were freed in an audacious operation by the Colombian armed forces last year along with politician Ingrid Betancourt.

According to the indictment, “Sombra” designed the barbed-wire “concentration camp” that held the hostages. Among the allegations are that he chained their necks and wrists, forced them on a 40-day “death march” through the jungle, and ordered that they be killed if rescue seemed imminent. Colombian soldiers captured by the FARC were forced to wear chains night and day, Howes, Stansell and Gonsalves claim in their book, Out of Captivity. In 2007, when FARC captors are believed to have executed 11 Colombian legislators they were holding. (LAT, June 19; Colombia Reports, June 17)

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