Colombia seeks intl intervention for ‘spies’ detained in Venezuela

Colombia’s Foreign Ministry Thursday requested “urgent intervention” by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) in the case of eight Colombians detained in Venezuela on charges of espionage.

The ministry also sent a letter to Venezuela demanding guarantees that the “fundamental human rights” of the detainees by respected and expressed “deep concern over Venezuela’s systematic process of stigmatization that judges Colombians simply for being [Colombian].”

Action taken by the foreign ministry echoes concerns voiced by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Wednesday that Venezuela’s detention of the Colombians constitutes a human rights violation, because the detainees “are being persecuted for being Colombian.”

Colombia’s Ombudsman Volmar Perez said that 20 Colombian citizens had been detained by Venezuela in March and are currently being held on charges of espionage or links to illegal armed groups. He called for intervention from the IACHR.

The eight Colombian nationals accused of espionage all members of the same family, were arrested in Venezuela after Canadian-Colombian doctor Luis Carlos Cossio took a photo of a military telecommunications tower.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that a search of the detained family’s ice cream shop, located in the Venezuelan state of Barinas turned up computers and satellite phones, as well as Colombian military identifcation. Chavez alleged that business’ premises were a front.

Cossio’s family claims that their relative is an avid photographer and is not a spy, though he worked for a time as a doctor in the Colombian army.

Colombia and Venezuela have a long history of rocky relations. Venezuela is critical of the impact of Colombia’s internal conflict within its own borders. Colombia accuses Venezuela of providing FARC guerrillas with a safe haven.

Diplomatic relations between the neighbor nations are currently frozen.

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