Colombia calls for Israeli mercenary's extradition

23rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Colombia on Wednesday urged Israel to answer its request to extradite a mercenary freed in November from Russian detention and convicted in absentia here for training right-wing paramilitary squads.

"We've been waiting for a response but none has arrived," said Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas, adding the latest extradition notice relating to the wanted man, Yair Klein, was over four months old.

Bogota filed the request to the Israeli foreign ministry on January 27, said Vargas, speaking at a public event in Medillin, Colombia's second city.

In 2001, a Colombian court sentenced Klein in his absence to 10 years and eight months prison for training paramilitaries and Medellin drug cartel enforcers in military and terrorist techniques.

Klein, a former colonel in Israel's parachute infantry, was arrested in Moscow in 2007 under an Interpol warrant. He had previously been detained for 16 months in the west African country Sierra Leone, accused of selling arms, training Liberian rebels and trafficking diamonds.

A Russian court approved Colombia's extradition request in 2008, but it was the subject of an emergency ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

In a full ruling in April 2009, the court said Klein faced a serious risk of mistreatment if he was detained in Colombia, and it upheld that decision in a subsequent ruling.

He was eventually sent back to Israel by Moscow. But reaction was swift and angry in Bogota, with Vargas telling reporters: "We are not going to stand around with our arms crossed."

Units trained by Klein are accused of killing 3,000 left-wing guerrillas and four candidates in the run-up to Colombia's 1990 presidential election.

Drug kingpin Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, known as "The Mexican," allegedly hired Klein in the late 1980s to train Colombian militias to protect landowners. Those groups over time branched out into right-wing paramilitary activities and drug trafficking.

When Rodriguez Gacha died in 1999, notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar allegedly then hired Klein.

Colombian officials also say Klein worked for the founders of the leading right-wing paramilitary group, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Some voices in European intelligence claimed Klein had throughout his work in South America maintained links with Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

© 2011 AFP

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