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Colombia opens inquiry into rebel ties

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia's chief prosecutor opened preliminary investigations Thursday into contacts between leftist rebels and prominent politicians, journalists and foreigners, including a U.S. consultant.

The prosecutor, Mario Iguaran, also asked the Supreme Court to investigate three opposition lawmakers including Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who helped Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broker the recent release of six rebel hostages. Only the court has the authority to investigate and try Colombian legislators.

The announcement came as President Alvaro Uribe grapples with two scandals: More than 30 members of Congress, mostly Uribe allies, have been jailed on charges of colluding with far-right militias, and three politicians have been arrested in a bribery scandal linked to a congressional vote that enabled Uribe's 2006 re-election.

Iguaran said the investigations were prompted by documents found on laptops that Colombian authorities recovered during a March 1 cross-border raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes, a top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The prosecutor did not specify what charges any of those under investigation might face.

Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said the government will request the extradition of those under investigation "in the event Colombian prosecutors require the presence of these people."

Uribe's government says the laptop documents indicate Chavez was seeking to finance and arm FARC rebels, while Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, was seeking close ties. Both neighboring presidents deny the accusations.

The foreigners placed under investigation Thursday include two Ecuadorans, a Venezuelan and American alternative development expert James C. Jones, who has been working with Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

Jones said he considers the investigation of him "ludicrous." He said his contacts with Reyes were purely mediation efforts to obtain the release of hostages including three U.S. military contractors held by the FARC since February 2003.

"I look at this and I laugh," he said.

Colombia opens inquiry into rebel ties 05/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 12:22pm]
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