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Cablegate: Arrest of Colonel Hernan Mejia Continues

VZCZCXYZ0012
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1697 1291620
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081620Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2674
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0384
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAY 9425
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6187
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1657
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6839
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4428
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001697

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PTER KJUS CO
SUBJECT: ARREST OF COLONEL HERNAN MEJIA CONTINUES
PROSECUTION TREND ON EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

REF: BOGOTA 1602

1. Colonel Hernan Mejia, former commander of the La Popa
Battalion, was arrested on May 6 on charges of criminal
conspiracy for colluding with paramilitary leader Rodrigo
Tovar Pupo (Jorge 40) and committing murder. Mejia
surrendered to authorities and publicly denied the charges.
The Prosecutor General's office (Fiscalia) also ordered the
arrest of three men formerly under Mejia's
command--Lieutenant Colonel Jose Ruiz, Sergeant Aureliano
Quejada, and retired Sergeant Efrain Andrade. All except
Quejada are in custody.

2. The Fiscalia said that Mejia presented at least 20
extrajudicial killing victims as ELN guerrillas killed in
combat in 2002. Additionally, former soldiers and
demobilized paramilitaries testified that Mejia presented his
troops with bodies dressed in fatigues to be claimed as
killed in combat. Former paramilitary (now dead) David
Hernandez (Jorge 39) testified that Mejia presented 18
supposed guerrillas killed in combat that witnesses
recognized as paramilitaries killed by their own men. The men
were part of an internal purge of the AUC group, Martires del
Cacique de Upar.

3. The arrest follows the detention of 29 members of the La
Popa Battalion for the May 2005 murder of two farmers in
Cesar (reftel). In January 2007, Defense Minister Santos
publicly stripped the highly decorated Mejia of his command
and assigned him to administrative duties due to evidence
linking him to possible extrajudicial killings between 2002
and 2004. The Defense Ministry turned over the evidence to
the Fiscalia. Mejia's arrest shows further GOC progress in
investigating and prosecuting extrajudicial killings.
BROWNFIELD

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