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Cablegate: Prosecutor General to Appeal Acquittal of General

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UNCLAS BOGOTA 008368

SIPDIS

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: PROSECUTOR GENERAL TO APPEAL ACQUITTAL OF GENERAL
USCATEGUI IN MAPIRIPAN CASE

1. On November 28, civilian judge Oscar Jaimes acquitted
General Jaime Humberto Uscategui, former commander of the 7th
Brigade, of homicide, kidnapping and omission charges in
connection with the July 1997 paramilitary massacre of an
estimated 50 people in Mapiripan, Meta department.
Uscategui, who has spent the last eight years in prison
during the investigation and trial period, was convicted of
falsifying documents and sentenced to 41 months. He is
eligible for immediate release due to time served. In
contrast, the judge convicted Colonel Hernan Orozco of
complicity in the massacre and sentence him to 40 years. The
GOC has convicted others in the case, including Colonel Lino
Sanchez to 40 years (who died in prison of cancer), two
noncommissioned officers in charge of airports involved, and
a number of paramilitary members, including Rene Cardenas
Galeano, a local AUC leader, Francisco Gomez and Arnoldo
Vergara, each to 40 years for their participation.

2. Uscategui had been originally convicted in the Military
Justice system of omission in 2001, but the Constitutional
Court decision ruled the massacre a grave human rights
violation and transferred the case to the civilian system.
The judge's ruling in the case comes more than two years
after the end of trial arguments, and disappointed the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia). Fiscal Mario Iguaran
told A/AS Jonathan Farrar on November 29 that the Fiscalia
will appeal the ruling "all the way to the Supreme Court if
necessary."

3. The Specialized Ninth Circuit court in Bogota concluded
hearings in July 2006 and recommended a 40-year sentence for
Uscategui. The judge had not rendered a decision in two
years, citing other assignments, though his docket had been
cleared of any new cases multiple times.

3. During the July 1997 military operation, at least 50
civilians were massacred by a group of paramilitary forces
sent by paramilitary leader Carlos Castao Gil in Mapiripn
(Mta) with military complicity. Two planes departed
airfields in Apartado and Necocli in the Uraba region and
flew to San Jose de Guaviare, where they committed the
massacre with complicity from the Army's 19th Infantry
Battalion. Two paramilitary forces entered the municipality
of Maprirpan with no resistance, killing at least 50
civilians and dumping corpses into the river, preventing an
accurate count of the deceased.
Nichols

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