One of the FARC rebels responsible for the 2003 hostage taking of three US military contractors was sentenced to 27 years in a US prison on Tuesday.
The FARC guerrilla, Diego Alfonso Navarrete, is the third rebel who has been sentenced to prison by a US judge for the capture and subsequent five-year detention of military contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes y Keith Stansell.
The three men were rescued in 2008 together with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
Navarrete, a former member of the FARC’s 1st Front, was extradited from Colombia to the United States in November 2014 to face charges in a superseding indictment that was returned in February 2011. He plead guilty in August.
According to US Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Navarrete “and other FARC guerrillas ruthlessly subjected their American hostages to constant threats of violence while holding them in one camp after another in the remote jungles of Colombia.”
The three victims’ plane crashed in FARC territory in 2003, killing one of the five on board. When FARC guerrillas arrived, the Colombian survivor of the crash was executed and the three American citizens taken prisoner.
Rather than releasing the prisoners as compulsory by international war law, the hostages were held in jungle camps, often chained to trees for five years.
“For over 16 months, this defendant was among the armed guards who prevented their escape. Today’s 27-year sentence provides justice for the three victims who were subjected to repeated barbaric abuse by the defendant and others while part of this terrorist organization,” said Phillips.
“I was following orders,” Navarrete told the judge, according to NBC News.
“You’re a coward,” one of the guerrilla’s victims, Keith Stansell, told his former captor.
The FARC, currently negotiating peace with the Colombian government, for decades used kidnapping as a means to generate revenue and to strike military targets.
The three Americans, together with dozens of other political and military hostages, were held as political collateral for years.
The FARC banned kidnapping in 2012.