Contractor convicted in 2001 murder of 2 union leaders at Drummond coal mine in Colombia

A Colombian judge has convicted a former contractor for the U.S.-based Drummond coal mining company of murder for being the mastermind of the killing of two union leaders in 2001.

The judge sentenced food services contractor Jaime Blanco to 37 years in prison in a verdict issued last month. The Associated Press learned of the ruling Wednesday. Blanco is appealing.

The killings of Valmore Locarno and Victor Orcasita drew considerable attention because Blanco and several others allege that senior managers of Alabama-based Drummond Co. ordered the killings. Drummond officials say they are innocent of any involvement in the killings.

A related lawsuit in U.S. federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, alleges Drummond aided and abetted in war crimes because the killers were members of far-right militias allegedly contracted by the company.