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US Fugitive Re-Arrested in South Africa - 2002-11-15


Police in South Africa Friday quickly re-arrested the last fugitive member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, after a court set him free. The man is now being held on immigration charges, while the United States prepares a formal extradition request.

Confusion surrounded the latest court appearance by James Kilgore, who was arrested last week after a 27-year international manhunt.

Early in the day, Magistrate Hafisa Mohammed ordered Mr. Kilgore released from police custody. She said U.S. officials had not yet filed a formal extradition request, and South African authorities had not supplied her court with an arrest warrant.

The magistrate said it was shocking that no paperwork had been submitted, and she could see no reason why Mr. Kilgore should not be set free.

The 55-year-old left the courtroom to have his release papers processed, and police immediately re-arrested him on charges of immigration fraud. His lawyer says he is accused of entering South Africa under a false name.

For the last five years, Mr. Kilgore has lived with his wife and two children in Cape Town under the name Charles William Pape. He is known to his friends and supporters as John Pape. He worked as a researcher affiliated with the University of Cape Town. A university spokeswoman calls him a highly regarded academic, who is respected by his colleagues.

Mr. Kilgore has also been one of the U.S government's most wanted fugitives since 1975. He is a former member of the 1970's radical group, known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and is best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in 1974.

Earlier this month, four other former SLA members pleaded guilty to the murder of California housewife Myrna Opsahl. She was killed by a shotgun blast during a 1975 bank robbery by the group.

U.S. diplomats have refused to comment publicly on the case. But several privately expressed bewilderment at the magistrate's initial decision to release Mr. Kilgore. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one U.S. official told VOA the latest extradition treaty between South Africa and the United States provides 60 days for the necessary paperwork to be filed.

If he is returned to the United States, Mr. Kilgore could face charges of murder, armed robbery and illegal possession of explosives. A bail hearing for the immigration fraud charges is scheduled for Monday.

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