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Betancourt ransom paid in 2003, says Colombian TV

Article published on the 2008-07-08 Latest update 2008-07-10 13:10 TU

The body of Raul Reyes(Credit: Reuters)

The body of Raul Reyes
(Credit: Reuters)

Colombian television station RCN reported that an email from former Farc number two Raul Reyes described a ransom payment to the rebel group in 2003 for Ingrid Betancourt, without citing a specific sum. Betancourt was freed last Wednesday with 14 other hostages by a Colombian army operation which duped the Farc into handing them over.

RCN said Tuesday that Reyes had addressed the email to Noel Saez, an emissary sent by France, Spain and Switzerland to establish contact with the Farc.

Reyes had indicated in the email that the French were duped while trying to secure Betancourt's release.

"Your reasons for paying money for the liberation of Madame Bettancourt without checking the identities [of their captors] or guarantees remain unexplained," Reyes wrote to Saez in the email obtained by RCN.

Reyes also sent the email to Manuel Marulanda, the former head of the Farc. Both Reyes and Marulanda have since died.

RCN said that in July 2003, 15 days before the date of Reyes' email, a French military plane landed in Brazil near the Colombian border in the hope of getting Ingrid Betancourt.

One of the Americans held hostage with Betancourt called the Farc "terrorists".

"They are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists," said Marc Gonsalves, who was held for more than five years. "They say they want equality. They say that they just want to make Colombia a better place. But that's all a lie...they use it to justify their criminal activity."