Colombian FARC political party member Jesus Santrich being released from La Picota prison in Bogota, Colombia, May 17, 2019. Santrich, wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges, was immediately rearrested.
Colombian FARC political party member Jesus Santrich being released from La Picota prison in Bogota, Colombia, May 17, 2019. Santrich, wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges, was immediately rearrested.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - A former left-wing guerrilla leader wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges was arrested upon his release from prison in Colombia Friday, his political party said.

Jesus Santrich, a blind former leader of the FARC rebels, was freed following an order by the special peace court tasked with judging crimes committed during Colombia’s half century of armed conflict.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) ordered the 52-year-old’s release to comply with the “non-extradition guarantee” that formed part of the 2016 peace accord that brought an end to FARC’s 50-year insurrection, converting the former rebels into a communist political party.

“Santrich has just been recaptured at the door” of the prison he was released from, the FARC political party said on its Twitter account.

He left La Picota prison in the south of the capital Bogota in a wheelchair, only to be immediately detained by public prosecutors before being taken away in a police helicopter to an unknown destination.

A source close to Santrich told AFP he had been taken to the prosecutor’s headquarters in Bogota.

FILE - Supporters of Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, bet
FILE - Supporters of Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, better known by his alias Jesus Santrich, a leader of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), hold posters asking for his freedom during a demonstration marking May Day to honor workers.

In a statement, the public prosecutor’s office said it “acted on” an arrest warrant related to the drug-trafficking investigation.

Santrich, whose real name is Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, is suspected of participating in the trafficking of 10 tons of cocaine to the United States between June 2017 and April 2018, crucially after the peace accord was signed in December 2016.

The agreement stipulated that former guerrillas who commit crimes after the pact was signed would be tried in a normal court and would lose the benefits afforded by the accord, such as a ban on extradition.

Washington, through its embassy in Bogota, had strongly opposed Santrich’s release and demanded an “urgent appeal” of the release order.

FARC, the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has subsequently become the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force political party, has denounced the accusations against Santrich as a “judicial set-up.”

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