BOGOTA – Colombian authorities extradited to the United States on Thursday a rebel "jailer" captured in last year's storybook rescue of three U.S. military contractors and ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
Gerardo Aguilar, alias "Cesar," faces drug-trafficking charges, kidnapping and other charges on an indictment in Washington, D.C. federal court.
The diminutive and bespectacled 50-year-old Aguilar, handcuffed and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, was delivered to eight DEA agents at a Bogota air base and boarded a U.S. Beechcraft Super King.
Aguilar became known to the public following the July 2, 2008 rescue of Betancourt and U.S. contractors Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, and Keith Stansell. In the elaborate ruse, Colombia military agents posing as international relief workers airlifted a total of 15 hostages to safety.
Aguilar and another Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia commander, Alexander Farfan, were led to believe they were transferring the hostages on the orders of their superiors.
Instead, they were jumped and disabled and Aguilar was punched in the eye.
Colombia's Supreme Court approved his extradition on drug trafficking charges last year but not for kidnapping.
U.S. officials and the three rescued Americans complained bitterly when the court also rejected the extradition of Farfan, alias "Enrique Gafas," on kidnapping charges, arguing that the crime was committed on Colombian soil so and American court had no jurisdiction.
Aguilar's lawyer, Armando Camacho, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his client was innocent of the drug-trafficking charges and that he was "very hopeful that in the U.S. justice will be done."
Colombia has extradited more than 900 people since President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002, mostly to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking.