Colombia frees guerilla leader to prompt hostage releases

The so-called 'foreign minister' of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group was freed from jail Monday as part of a prison release to secure the freedom of 60 hostages, including former presidential candidate lngrid Betancourt, held by the rebels.

Colombia frees guerilla leader to prompt hostage releases
The so-called 'foreign minister' of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group was freed from jail Monday as part of a prison release to secure the freedom of 60 hostages, including former presidential candidate lngrid Betancourt, held by the rebels.

In part of a deal proposed last month by President Alvaro Uribe, Rodrigo Granda, the highest-ranking jailed member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was released and 200 other guerrillas are expected to be released from prison later this week.

Uribe hopes the release will motivate the rebels to negotiate the release of the 60 hostages which include Betancourt, an anti-corruption presidential candidate kidnapped five years ago, and three American military contractors seized in 2003.

Newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy had appealed to Uribe for the prison release to secure the freedom of Betancourt, who also possesses a French passport.

Granda, who was captured in neighbouring Venezuela in December 2004 by undercover Colombian security agents, was escorted from La Dorada prison north-east of Bogota onto a helicopter and was expected to travel to the headquarters of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Episcopate in the capital.

He is under the supervision of Colombia's peace commissioner, Deputy Justice Minister Guillermo Reyes, and was released despite refusing to mediate in a prisoner swap. On Sunday, the FARC rejected Uribe's plan and again demanded he cede a demilitarized zone as a condition for talks.

Granda is also wanted in Paraguay for the 2004 murder of Cecilia Cubas, daughter of the former president Raúl Cubas.
Last Mod: 05 Haziran 2007, 12:29
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