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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 03:51 GMT
US jails Colombian rebel leader
Farc commander Ricardo Palmera
Palmera said neither he nor the Farc supported terrorism
A Colombian rebel leader has been jailed for 60 years by a US court, in connection with the kidnapping of three US intelligence operatives in 2003.

Ricardo Palmera, 57, is the most senior member of the Farc guerrilla movement to be captured in 40 years of conflict.

He was seized in Ecuador and extradited to the US in December 2004.

The Farc has several times called for his release in exchange for the high-profile hostages it holds, who include the three Americans.

Palmera is awaiting a second trial on drug trafficking charges.

Jungle camp

US District Judge Royce Lamberth, who passed sentence, said the hostage-taking was "an act of terrorism" that was heinous, barbaric and "against the law of all civilised nations".

Palmera was unrepentant as far as his membership of the guerrilla movement was concerned.

"I may lose my physical liberty but all my ideas remain intact," he said, adding that he had received a "political trial" and that neither he nor the Farc supported terrorism.

Palmera, also known by his nom de guerre Simon Trinidad, had admitted working as a negotiator for Farc, but denies meeting the Americans or holding them hostage.

The US government contractors - Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves - were taken by Farc after their aircraft crashed in the jungle during a mission to find illegal drug crops in 2003.

They are still thought to be held by Farc in a jungle camp in south-eastern Colombia.

The left-wing rebel group has been fighting the Colombian government for more than four decades.

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