Colombia’s National Police on Thursday announced the capture of five displacement victims who are held responsible for the murder of a land restitution leader.
The homicide of Jairo Mejia Martinez took place June 15, 2012 in the residence that Mejia had reclaimed in a small town in the northern department of Cordoba. Mejia Martinez had been the leader of a group of families reclaiming territory after they were forcefully displaced from territories also in Cordoba.
The murder was reportedly ordered by the five members of the Cerpas Acuña family, who it appears were themselves all claimants of the government’s land restitution program, and who police have announced were arrested in the municipality of Carmen de Bolivar in northern Bolivar, on land that supposedly had belonged to Mejia.
In the initial investigation of the death of Mejia, it had been suggested that those responsible for the murder were the so called “anti restitution army.” This theory was dropped following the testimony of the hired assassin, Edwin Enrique Fernandez Leon, alias “Bola de Cambio,” who reportedly confessed to accepting $2 million from the Cerpas family to take the life of the land restitution leader.
According to the Police report, the homicide was carried out by a group of people “with a single desire to terrorize the inhabitants of the area and in this way succeed in their forced displacement” which the report states can be verified by the statistics provided for relinquished and abandoned land in the department of Cordoba.
The five members of the Cerpas family have been sent to a prison in the coastal town of Cartagena, and have been charged with homicide, attempted homicide, conspiracy to commit aggravated crime and forced displacement.
Locations related to the killing and the arrest
- Operación “República 251” (Policia Nacional de Colonbia)
- Caen presuntos asesinos de líder de restitución de tierras (El Universal)
- Envían a prisión a cinco personas por asesinato de líder de tierras (El Tiempo)