US authorities plan to send former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso to Italy after Colombia’s government apparently dropped an extradition request, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
The demobilized AUC chief, who has double nationality, was supposed to be extradited to Colombia after his release from prison on March 27, but sources close to Mancuso told the American news agency that the Department of Homeland Security ordered his removal to Italy on April 16.
Extradition request surprisingly revoked
According to AP, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry surprisingly revoked a pending extradition request last month while concerns over the former AUC leader’s physical and judicial security in Colombia grew.
This surprise move reportedly allowed Mancuso’s attorney in the US, Joaquin Perez, to outmaneuver prosecutors seeking the extradition of the former AUC chief to Colombia.
“You have to be really naive to believe that an involuntary bureaucratic mistake is what is blocking the return of the person who knows the most about the history of the paramilitaries,” AP quoted opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda as saying.
Colombia’s ambassador to Washington DC, Fancisco Santos, has reportedly tried to block the transfer to Italy of the man who accuses him of seeking the formation of a paramilitary group in the capital Bogota in 1997.
“I have no doubt they will kill him”
“Mancuso wants to return to Colombia. But it’s us, his lawyers and friends, and even some authorities, who have told him not to come back,” Mancuso’s attorney in Colombia, Jaime Paeres, told AP.
“I have no doubt they will kill him if he comes,” said the attorney who recently claimed that 35 armed men were looking for him while on a farm just outside Medellin
Ever since the transitional Justice and Peace tribunal paroled Mancuso in November last year, prosecutors and judges have tried to overturn this ruling, demanding his arrest on return.
The AUC leader reiterated his willingness to cooperate with the peace process in a phone call with demobilized guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko,” last month.
Mancuso’s cooperation with justice, however, is what got former President Alvaro Uribe to extradite him without warrant in 2008, according to the former AUC chief.
“With me they extradited the truth,” Mancuso told press then.