Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, called for the repatriation of two former guerrilla leaders currently imprisoned in the United States.
The request, published on the FARC’s website, advocated the release of high-level commanders aliases “Simon Trinidad” and “Sonia” and came following a statement from former Colombian President Ernesto Samper supporting the move.
Colombia debería ayudar con los presos de Guantánamo y EEUU debería ayudar con los de las FARC que hoy están en EEUU como Simón Trinidad.
— Ernesto Samper (@ernestosamperp) March 28, 2014
Simon Trinidad, a key negotiator in the 1998-2002 peace talks with the Colombian government, was arrested in 2004 in Ecuador and is currently serving a 60-year sentence stemming from his alleged involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of three US military contractors. Sonia, meanwhile, was the former leader of the FARC’s 14 Front, located in the southern state of Caqueta.
The FARC claims its former commanders are being held for political reasons rather than the crimes they were convicted of and argues that they should be released on humanitarian grounds, praising Samper for his “humanitarian awareness and consistent commitment to peace in Colombia.”
In September 2012, the FARC chose Simon Trinidad as a negotiator in the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government that eventually began in November of that year. Sunday’s statement from the FARC once again reiterated its preference to have the FARC leader involved in the current peace process.
Simon Trinidad “was designated by the FARC as one of the plenipotentiaries of peace, to contribute with his well-known knowledge and common sense to the construction of the agreement to end the protracted conflict in Colombia.”
The FARC’s request came shortly after the United States reportedly asked Colombia if the Southern American nation would be willing to accept prisoners from the United State’s Guantanamo Bay prison located in Cuba. Colombia is said to be considering the proposition and another South American country, Uruguay, has already agreed to receive prisoners from the infamous US holding camp.
The FARC previously requested that the two be transferred back to Colombia in 2009, but then-President Alvaro Uribe denied the request.
Simon Trinidad was educated in economics at Harvard and is said to be one of the FARC’s greatest minds. He joined the FARC in the mid-1980s following rampant violence perpetrated against the Patriotic Union political party, co-founded by the FARC. He was formerly a leader of the FARC’s 41st Front, active in the northern state of Cesar, and was said to have risen to third in the rebel chain of command prior to his capture.
MORE: Simon Trinidad
The FARC and the Colombian government finished the 22nd round of the peace talks this weekend. The next rounds are scheduled to begin on April 4. The talks are currently focusing on the third topic in a six-point agenda, this one concerning the drug trade and policies surrounding consumption and cultivation in a potential post-peace environment.