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Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Colombia aims to reward ex-rebel

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (left) greets former Farc guerrilla, known as Isaza in Cali, Colombia (26/10/2008)
"Isaza" (right) faces death for his desertion if caught by the Farc

A Colombian guerrilla who led a hostage to freedom could receive a new life in France and almost half a million dollars by the government.

The rebel, known only by the alias of "Isaza", spent 10 years in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

He led former congressman Oscar Tulio Lizcano to freedom after the politician had spent eight years as a captive.

The Farc are still holding more than 20 hostages that they want to exchange for hundreds of their comrades in prison.

Reports from Colombia say talks are taking place to overcome legal hurdles concerning what happens next to Isaza.

This could include dropping any charges he might have faced as a member of Farc.

In addition, Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the former rebel could receive a reward of around $419,000 (269,000).

On Monday, French authorities said they were doing a background check to ensure Isaza qualified for asylum there. Last year, France offered asylum to Farc rebels who defected as part of efforts to secure the release of hostages.

Correspondents say the message the government is sending to Farc rebels guarding the remaining hostages is clear: desert with your prisoners and we will not only make you rich, but ensure you live far from the reach of the vengeful guerrilla army.

All deserters from the Farc are sentenced to death by their fellow guerrillas, a fact that has discouraged many from making the leap to freedom.

However, the government is seeking to alleviate that fear and secure the liberation of more than 20 high-profile hostages, mainly politicians and Colombian servicemen, still in rebel hands.

Legal hurdles

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott, in Medellin, says that while the promises have been made, the former Farc guard still has some legal hurdles to surmount.

The Attorney General Mario Iguaran said that his life in France and his reward are within legal reach, but he urged the government to promote some new legislation to make future desertions of this nature quicker to resolve.

Desertion has become the Achilles heel of the Farc, with 1,500 rebels having fled the guerrilla army this year, our correspondent says.

They have brought with them invaluable intelligence on the Farc, which the military have been quick to take advantage of.

Furthermore, they have undermined the morale of those rebel fighters that still remain.



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