BOGOTA, Colombia – A U.S. judge has taken out ads in Colombian newspapers and magazines ordering the country's main rebel group to appear in his Washington courtroom to face charges of kidnapping three Americans in 2003.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are accused in the summons, first published Sunday in a half-dozen Colombian publications, of "taking hostages in violation of U.S. laws."
The Americans — Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell — were captured by the FARC on Feb. 13, 2003, after their small plane crashed in a rebel stronghold in southern Colombia while on an anti-drug mission. The FARC has acknowledged they are holding the men.
The announcement was placed in Spanish by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan and is slated to be repeated once a week through September.
Sheldon Snook, Hogan's executive assistant, said judges are required by law to send out a summons order and said the judge chose to issue this one in the Colombian press because "We don't have (the FARC's) address on file."
Besides accusing the FARC as a whole in the kidnappings, the jailed FARC leader Ricardo Palmera has also been named in the case. Palmera, who goes by the alias Simon Trinidad, was extradited to the United States late last year on a May 2004 U.S. indictment that charged him with "conspiring to kidnap" the three Americans.
The 13,000-strong FARC has been fighting for social revolution in Colombia for 41 years, but the group is also deeply involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom.