A civil court in Florida ordered FARC members to pay three American former hostages of the guerrilla group $240 million in damages.
The court issued a public notice giving the accused FARC members 21 days to appeal the finding, reported El Tiempo on Monday.
The demand for compensation was brought by the three kidnapped American contractors, who were taken prisoner after their plane was shot down in Colombia on February 13, 2003, and the family of a fourth American, who was killed in a gun fight after the crash.
Charges were filed against 87 members of the FARC, but the court’s ruling names only 49 of the guerillas, many of them still at large. In addition, a few dead FARC fighters appear on the list, such as Tomas Medina Caracas (“El Negro Acacio”) and Jose Rizo Carrascal (“Jurga Jurga”).
The FARC’s upper leadership, the Secretariat, also appear in the list.
The initial suit was brought against the FARC by the Americans in November 2009, giving the FARC 60 days to respond.
Given the difficulty of contacting the FARC, the court decided earlier in February that they would notify the FARC of the decision via newspapers.
While little is expected to come of this ruling in terms of financial compensation by the FARC, the court’s ruling does put additional pressure on some members of the FARC who are in custody.
FARC guerilla “Sonia” for example, who was extradited to the U.S. in 2005 and is serving a 14 year sentence, could be prevented from leaving prison when her sentence ends if a judge finds her liable for the compensation.
The three American security contractors who brought the suit, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, were rescued by the Colombian army in the daring “Operation Checkmate” in July 2008, along with Ingrid Betancourt and 11 Colombian soldiers. The Americans published a book about their ordeal.