Colombian ex-militia head pleads not guilty to US drug trafficking charges

[JURIST] Former Colombian militia leader Salvatore Mancuso pleaded not guilty in a Florida court Thursday to drug trafficking charges after being extradited [JURIST report] to the US Tuesday on suspicion of organizing violent massacres and drug smuggling operations. Mancuso and 13 other men are suspected of being members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia [BBC backgrounder], which is designated as a terrorist group by the US. The guerrilla leaders had surrendered to Colombian authorities under a peace deal in which Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish; BBC profile] suspended warrants for their extradition, but Justice Minister Carlos Holguin [official profile, in Spanish] told local radio that the leaders had broken the deal by continuing to organize gangs or by refusing to cooperate with government officials. AP has more.

In April, a Colombian court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the extradition of one such leader, Carlos Mario Jimenez-Naranjo, ruling that it would deny the victims of his crime the chance to seek compensation. Despite the ruling, Jimenez-Naranjo was extradited [DOJ release] to the US earlier this month, where he could face up to life in prison if convicted.

 

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