Colombia asks Israel to extradite mercenary Yair Klein

Former IDF officer was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison for training illegal paramilitary groups.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS, DAN IZENBERG
January 28, 2011 00:02
2 minute read.
Police handcuff a criminal (illustrative).

handcuffs 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia on Thursday asked Israel to extradite a former army officer who was sentenced in a Colombian court to nearly 11 years in prison for training drug-traffickers' assassins.

Colombia has no extradition treaty with Israel, and the Israeli Embassy is not commenting on the request to send Yair Klein to the South American country.

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Colombian Interior Minister German Vargas announced the extradition request at a news conference Thursday.

Klein and his attorney have told The Associated Press in Israel that the Israeli's life would be in danger if he were imprisoned in Colombia.

Klein spent three years in a Moscow prison on a Colombian extradition request. He was freed last November after a court ruled Colombia could not guarantee him due process.

In 2001, Klein was tried in absentia by the Supreme Tribunal of the Manzales district of Colombia and sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison on charges of training illegal paramilitary groups. The Colombian government issued a warrant for his arrest with Interpol, and he was detained during a visit to Russia in August 2007.

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The Colombian government asked Russia to extradite Klein. The government agreed to do so and the Russian courts, in a series of rulings, upheld the decision despite appeals by Klein’s lawyers, including his Israeli attorney, Mordechai Tzivin.

Tzivin appealed the final decision of the Russian Supreme Court in May 2008 to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that Russia had not taken into account the poor state of human rights in Colombia at the time, as well as a threat by former Colombian vice president Francisco Santos, that Klein would “rot in jail” after his return to Colombia.

The human rights court, in April of 2010, forbade Russia from extraditing Klein to Colombia. Russia appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied.

In a telephone conversation with The Jerusalem Post, Klein said his entire relationship with Colombia was approved by the Israeli and Colombian governments.

Klein said that in 1988 he was sent by the Israeli Defense Ministry to help protect the organization of banana growers in Colombia at the request of the Colombian government.

Before he had time to take action, he said, the organization was destroyed. He told the Post that in the meantime, however, he was asked by the Colombian government to help train FARC, the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Klein indicated that there was a conspiracy involving senior government officials who were cooperating with FARC. He also claimed that FARC fought against the drug cartels in Colombia.

Klein told the Post that if the Colombian government persisted in its efforts to force him to return to Columbia, he would blow the whistle on officials in the current and previous Colombian governments.

“What I have on these officials is fantastic,” he said.

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