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Page last updated at 01:04 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 02:04 UK

Jailed Colombian druglord pleads for home

Carlos Lehder (image: US Drug Enforcement Administration)
Carlos Lehder says the US judicial system is breaking an agreement

One of the co-founders of the Medellin drug cartel has written to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe asking to be returned to his home country.

Carlos Lehder was extradited to the US in 1987, where he is serving a 55-year sentence for drug smuggling.

Lehder argues he should have been released two years ago.

He says he struck a deal to have his sentence reduced in return for his testimony against the former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.

Sentence served?

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo published excerpts from Lehder's letter to the president in which he stresses he has served his time.

"Mr President: I was extradited at the age of 37, this year I'm turning 61... I have obeyed the laws and followed the orders of the jailers who punish me, I admit my guilt but I have served the agreed sentence," the paper quotes him as saying.

Lehder argued that the US judicial system was breaking an agreement he had with them.

He says that under the deal, he should have been released in 2008 in recognition of his role as a star witness in the US trial against Noriega on drug-trafficking charges.

'Frustrated'

The Medellin cartel, which Lehder co-founded, had close links with Noriega, who allowed it to ship cocaine through Panama for a reported $100,000 (£68,000) a load.

Noriega served a 20-year sentence in the US and is currently awaiting trial in France on charges of laundering drugs money.

A spokesman for President Uribe said that the Colombian government was working on a response to Lehder's letter, although he did not know what it would contain.

Lehder's lawyer told BBC Mundo that his client was frustrated with his current situation, but he was holding up well.



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