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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Colombia jails top rebel leader
Ricardo Palmera is escorted by specials forces at the military base in Bogota, Colombia, following his deportation from Ecuador
Palmera was extradited after his arrest in Ecuador
The most senior Colombian guerrilla ever captured has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Ricardo Palmera, better known by his alias Simon Trinidad, was the public face of the Farc organisation during failed peace talks with the government.

Aged 53, he was convicted of kidnapping and rebellion, and still faces charges including murder and terrorism.

His conviction is a major victory for President Alvaro Uribe, who has vowed to crush the left-wing Farc rebels.

Palmera had pleaded guilty to rebellion, but denied kidnapping the former mayor of Valledupar city.

Video link

However, he was found guilty of the offence, along with another guerrilla commander, Carlos Julio Vargas.

Palmera appeared via video link from prison, as the authorities thought it was too risky to transfer him to court.

He was captured in Quito, Ecuador in January, in a joint operation with Colombian forces.

A former banker from Valledupar, Palmera was in his mid-30s when he left his wife and two children to join the rebels in the jungle.

Colombian authorities say he was in charge of Farc's financing and a member of its general staff.

But he claims the government exaggerated his importance.

Backed by US

Mr Uribe has made an unrelenting offensive on the rebels a cornerstone of his administration, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia.

His battle against the rebels and the Colombian cocaine trade is backed by Washington to the tune of over $500m a year.

Farc is a 17,000-strong group which has been fighting for power in Colombia for four decades.

But until now, the Colombian authorities had been unable to capture or kill any major rebel leaders.

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Country profile: Colombia
12 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Q&A: Colombia's civil conflict
06 May 03  |  Americas

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