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Cablegate: Three Air Force Officers Sentenced for Santo

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #6998 2691229
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261229Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9149
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9343
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP LIMA 5435
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO6034
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4086
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS BOGOTA 006998

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: THREE AIR FORCE OFFICERS SENTENCED FOR SANTO
DOMINGO KILLINGS

REF: A. A) BOGOTA 6789
B. B) BOGOTA 6382

1. The 12th Circuit Penal Court in Bogota sentenced two
pilots and a technician to six years under house arrest on
manslaughter charges stemming from the accidental bombing of
a community in Tame (Arauca), which killed 17 people during
an operation against the FARC on December 13, 1998. Captain
Cesar Romero Pradilla, Pilot Hector Mario Hernandez and
Lieutenant Johan Jimenez Valencia were all ordered under
house arrest after the judge ruled the act was a military
error, not an intentional crime. The judge gave the
sentencing after ruling the three were not a threat to
society. The convicted have the right to appeal, but have not
yet announced intentions to do so.

2. Additional charges for obstruction of justice, fraud and
perjury will likely also be filed against Air Force Major
Garzon, the senior pilot involved in the operation.
According to Giovanni Alvarez, the senior prosecutor on the
case and deputy director of the Human Rights Unit in the
Prosecutor General's Office, Major Garzon attempted to
pressure the accused and witnesses to alter their testimony
and fueled the Air Force's original claim that the attack was
a FARC-planted car bomb. The Air Force used this explanation
to try to resume funding to CACOM-1, the airbase in Santo
Domingo, after USG assistance was suspended pending
investigation of the killings.

3. This sentencing is the most recent of a series of recent
convictions against the military to resolve major human
rights cases raised by Post. On September 15, the Supreme
Court sentenced an officer to 40 years for the crime of
omission in the La Gabarra massacre of 1999 (reftel A). On
August 28, a Bogota court found three soldiers and one
civilian guilty of the murder of three union leaders executed
in Arauca in 2004 (reftel B). Additionally, four soldiers
were convicted to 12-20 years on September 18 for murdering
Jose Valencia Morales in Marinilla (Antioquia Department) in
2004 and dressing him as an enemy combatant.
Brownfield

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