Prison jail generic.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Former IDF Lt.-Col. Yair Klein returned home to Israel overnight Friday, three
years and three months after he was arrested and jailed in Russia.
been held in the Russian prison awaiting extradition to Colombia, where he is
wanted on charges of assisting drug traffickers and militias.
the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling forbidding Russia from
extraditing Klein to Colombia.
Russia appealed the decision, but the
appeal was denied last month.
“This is a great feeling,” Klein told
friends and family who greeted him upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, calling
the Colombian warrant for his arrest “nonsense.”
around him, at one point handing Klein a large bottle of liquor as a gift. He
told reporters that he missed women most of all during his stint behind
Before he left Moscow, Klein told Channel 2 he would write books
that would “cause chaos in Israel.”
When asked what he thought of the
government’s handling of his situation, Klein replied, “This is your government,
He credited Israeli media with his release, saying that
“journalists played a large role in the struggle for my release, and for this I
want to thank you.”
On June 22, 2001, the Supreme Tribunal of the
Manizales district of Colombia sentenced Klein to 10 years and eight months in
prison after convicting him of participating in the training and doctrine of
illegal paramilitary groups.
Soon afterward, the court issued an
international warrant for his arrest.
Klein was detained by Russian
authorities in August 2007.
After several court cases, the Russian
Supreme Court rejected his final appeal on May 22, 2008, and ordered Klein to be
extradited to Colombia.Klein’s lawyers then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights,
arguing that Russia had breached the European Convention of Human Rights by
failing to examine his claims that he would be seriously mistreated if sent to
Colombia. The European Court immediately ordered Russia to suspend the
extradition until it investigated the case.
Columbia has sought to
extradite the former military officer since he was sentenced in absentia for
helping train far-right paramilitary groups in the 1980s.
The groups were
responsible for mass murder and widespread land theft during more than a
decadelong reign of terror across Colombia’s countryside.
courts issued the sentence in 2001. Klein was arrested by Russian authorities in
August 2007 as he touched down at a Moscow airport.
Moscow released Klein
after the European Court of Human Rights recommended in April that he not be
extradited because of concerns he wouldn’t receive a fair trial in
Klein was convicted of training members of the private army of
the late drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose hit men killed justice ministers,
journalists, judges, prosecutors – and the cartel-fighting presidential
candidate Luis Carlos Galan in 1989.
Klein has denied working with
Colombia’s cocaine cartels and said he only instructed paramilitaries in defense
Colombia’s Justice Minister German Vargas said his country would
not “stand by with arms crossed.” Officials there argued that Klein’s return to
Israel was denying justice to victims of the paramilitaries.
He said in a
statement that Colombian diplomats were studying legal alternatives for getting
Klein to Colombia and hoped Israel, Russia and the rest of the international
community would respond affirmatively.
Klein’s lawyer, Mordechai Tzibin,
said his client “would be tortured and then murdered without a doubt” if
extradited to Colombia.
Human rights activists are asking Israel to open
an investigation into Klein’s actions during that period, in the hope that he
could be tried here.
“Israel should not be a safe haven for somebody who
is implicated in atrocities in Colombia,” said Jose-Miguel Vivanco of the New
York-based Human Rights Watch.
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