One of Colombian guerrilla group FARC’s most notorious kidnappers, aptly nicknamed the “jailer”, asked his victims for forgiveness Wednesday.
Captured FARC combatant Heli Mejia Mendoza, alias “Martin Sombra,” asked for forgiveness from his own hostage victims and their families during a public hearing in the central Colombian city of Villavicencio.
“Looking at the mistake I made and based on all the damage I’ve done, I apologize,” a contrite Sombra told his former prisoners and families of kidnapping victims. “I apologize because I’ve done a lot of damage to the world, for having belonged since the age of 10 to gangs and afterwards to leftist guerrillas [FARC].”
The purpose of the Justice and Peace hearing was to investigate a 1999 FARC offensive on Puerto Rico, a town in the Meta department. The attack left five dead and 28 soldiers and police kidnapped.
Among the police captured were: Carlos Jose Duarte, Jose Libardo Forero, Wilson Rojas, Jorge Trujillo and Jorge Humberto Romero, who were among the last state officials released by the guerrilla group in February this year.
After more than six hours of the hearing, the men got their chance to face their former captor. While the police displayed mixed emotions, Sombra reportedly apologized for, “having been part of an organization that has done so much harm to humanity.”
Over the years, Colombian authorities have held Mendoza responsible for numerous kidnappings, extortions and murders. In June 2010, a Caqueta judge found Sombra guilty of the aggravated kidnapping for ransom of three U.S. contractors in 2003.
Having spent 40 years of his life in the ranks of the guerrillas managing several prisoner camps, Sombra became known as FARC’s “jailer”. He was arrested in February 2008 after an informant led police to the house where he was staying.