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Colombian Judge Orders Release of Drug Lord - 2002-11-07

A Colombian judge has ordered the immediate release of jailed drug lord Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, who once led a powerful drug cartel with his brother.

Judge Luz Amanda Moncada ordered the brother, Miguel, to remain behind bars to serve the remainder of a bribery sentence. And, the Associated Press reports prosecutors are working to find evidence to keep Gilberto Rodriguez in jail.

The decision comes nearly a week after another judge ordered both men to be freed early for good behavior in their sentences for drug trafficking.

President Alvaro Uribe blocked the release, saying he had doubts about its legality. He also said freeing the pair could harm Colombia's dignity and hurt relations with the United States.

The Rodriguez brothers were captured in 1995 and later sentenced up to 15 years in prison.

Upon Gilberto's arrest, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration described the Cali cartel as the most powerful drug trafficking organization in history. At the time, the DEA said the former cartel supplied 80 percent of the world's cocaine, and had estimated annual profits of eight-billion dollars.

President Uribe says fighting drug trafficking is critical to ending Colombia's 38-year-old civil war that involves leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and the government.