/ languages

Choisir langue


Betancourt returns to Paris amid questions surrounding her rescue

Article published on the 2008-07-04 Latest update 2008-07-06 13:23 TU

Ingrid Betancourt welcomed by President Sarkozy and his wife, 4 July 2008(Photo: AFP)

Ingrid Betancourt welcomed by President Sarkozy and his wife, 4 July 2008
(Photo: AFP)

Ingrid Betancourt landed in Paris Friday after six years as a hostage. She was met by President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni. The President said that "all of France was delighted" about her return. However a radio station has suggested that money was paid to some members of the Farc guerrilla group which was holding her, as part of the operation that won Betancourt's freedom.

On Friday the Suisse Romande Radio station claimed that 20 million dollars had been paid to Farc members as part of the rescue operation. The station's Foreign Editor said that it was not a ransom in the traditional sense but part of a payoff fund designed to draw Farc rebels out of the group and into amnesty.

Betancourt responded to the claim by saying she did not believe that the military operation that rescued her was a "set-up" designed to hide a ransom payment. She was speaking after a reception at the Elysée Palace in honour of her support committees.

Earlier Friday she had thanked her supporters. "But I have left behind human beings who are still in the hands of the Farc," she said. "So I still need you because we can't leave them where they are."

She called for France and other countries to work to free those still held by Farc guerrillas.

Also Friday French politicians exchanged accusations over her release. Former Socialist presidential candidate Segolène Royal hit out at Sarkozy, suggesting that he had played little or no role in Betancourt's liberation.

Royal, who is visiting Quebec, described the freeing of Betancourt as "a Colombian operation" and said that negotiations with the Farc, which Sarkozy had advocated, group had led nowhere.

French Prime Minsiter François Fillon accused Royal of "lacking dignity" and behaving like a schoolgirl. Her comments were described as "pitiful" by the spokesperson of the right-wing UMP party.

Betancourt on Friday described the strategy behind her release as "the result of a united approach between Colombia and France".

She said her liberation was "obviously the work of the Colombian military" but that, if the French government had not supported her cause, "another kind of operation" would have occured.