Rattling the Cage: A monster comes home

Let the Colombians have Yair Klein, let justice be done.

Breaking news (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Breaking news
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
There are lots of big-time villains loose in the world – Islamic master terrorists, Latin American drug lords, African militia commanders, Russian and Sicilian mafia figures and so on. We read about them in the media and assume automatically that they’re at least as evil as they’re made out to be. When they invariably claim innocence, we laugh; what do you expect a villain to do, admit he’s a villain?
Arch-mercenary Yair Klein is another of the world’s notoriously monstrous figures, and he just got out of a Russian prison and came home to Tel Aviv over the weekend. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was sentenced in absentia in Colombia for training death squads working for fascist groups and drug cartels, and imprisoned in Sierra Leone for training and arming the unimaginably barbaric Revolutionary United Front.
That’s what he’s been convicted of; he’s also suspected of involvement in blowing up a Colombian airliner, of training right-wing assassins and narco-terrorists not just in Colombia but in other South and Central American countries, and of sticking his hands in Africa’s “blood diamond” trade.
After three years in a Russian jail on an Interpol warrant for aiding terrorists, Klein was freed when a European human rights court agreed he should not be extradited to Colombia because it wouldn’t be safe for him in prison there.
His hero’s welcome from family and friends at Ben-Gurion Airport was a big story. The Israeli media are chasing him, letting him say whatever he wants to say, deny whatever he wants to deny, so long as he’ll talk to them.
“Despite what’s been published, I wasn’t connected with drug dealers. I worked with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture,” he told Yediot Aharonot. “I’m not a mercenary... I went to give training and protection at banana farms and cattle ranches.”
As a Jew and former top IDF commander, Lt.- Col. (ret.) Klein, 67, says he feels betrayed. “No religious Jew came to bring me a prayer book or a Bible or to send me doughnuts for Hanukka,” he said.
He likens himself to another world-renowned Israeli in prison. “There’s a person named Gilad Schalit whose birthday is the same as mine, August 28, and he is sitting in jail for years, and Israel bombed Gaza and never thought to capture Palestinians at the highest levels to win his release. The same country that didn’t look out for me also doesn’t look out for Gilad.”
(That’s a gross slander. Israel has imprisoned or killed hundreds of Palestinians at all levels and sent soldiers to their deaths for Schalit’s sake. Note to Yediot and other news media: Objectivity does not mean disseminating other people’s lies, especially people like Klein.)
He reminds me somewhat of Carlos the Jackal – a fearless, charismatic, self-adoring, deceitful, conscienceless man of extraordinary violence.
He’s a very, very scary individual.
And I think this is one reason he’s being treated so gently here – he inspires fear. Another reason is that he fought in the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War and was a paratroop and elite unit commander. It’s too bad Israelis refuse to understand that just like every other army in the world, the IDF has its bad apples, and some are out-and-out sociopaths.
Yet another reason for Klein’s kid-gloves treatment is that while he is the most infamous Israeli mercenary, he’s far from the only one. In Latin America and Africa, he had lots of colleagues and employees who came out of the IDF. This country, unfortunately, has more than its share of soldiersturned- mercenaries who sell guns and expertise to the scum of the earth.
So Klein has a lot of friends and admirers around here. He’d be a natural in Israel Beiteinu.
He’s lying again when he says Israel abandoned him. The opposite is the shameful truth. This country never did more than fine him once for operating overseas without a license; it reportedly pulled strings to free him from prison and a death sentence in Sierra Leone; and it refused to extradite him to Colombia, which first made the request nine years ago, or to arrest him on the Interpol warrant, which was put out three years ago.
Colombia still wants him extradited to serve his 10-year sentence, but the Justice Ministry here has no intention of cooperating.
That’s a problem. There is a monster loose in Tel Aviv. He needs to be locked up. Let the Colombians have Yair Klein. Let justice be done, let the world be a safer place. If his life’s in danger in Colombian prison, then, by all means, send him a prayer book.