Two FARC members get prison for holding US hostages

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two members of a Colombian guerrilla group were sentenced Tuesday to 19 years in prison for the 2003 abduction of three US citizens freed during a 2008 raid that also gained the freedom of Frenchwoman Ingrid Betancourt.

The sentence was handed down by a judge in the southern city of Florencia against Heli Mejia Mendoza, known as "Martin Sombra" and Alexander Farfan Perez, nicknamed "Gafas," who are members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The two were convicted for their role in the February kidnapping of three Northrop Grumman employees Mark Gonsalves, Keith Donald Stansell and Thomas Howes, who were working on aerial surveillance of coca growing in cooperation with the US military.

The Americans were on a small plane that crashed in FARC-controlled territory amid shooting. After the plane landed, an American and a Colombia were fatally shot and the other three captured by the FARC and held for ransom.

The three captives were freed in July 2008 in Operation Jaque, a Colombian military raid that also recovered Betancourt, the Franco-Colombian politician held for more than six years by the FARC.

Farfan was arrested during that operation, and Mendoza had been captured several months earlier.

© 2010 AFP

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