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Paris offers asylum to Farc defector

Article published on the 2008-10-28 Latest update 2008-10-28 15:05 TU

 Alvaro Uribe (R) shakes the hand of ex-rebel "Isaza" (Photo: Reuters)

Alvaro Uribe (R) shakes the hand of ex-rebel "Isaza"
(Photo: Reuters)

France says that it is ready to offer asylum to the former Farc guerrilla, known as Isaza, who escaped with Colombian hostage Oscar Tulio Lizcano. Lizcano had been held by the rebel movement for eight years.

Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe said on Sunday that the 28-year-old Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (Farc) member would receive the same treatment as any guerrillas who lay down their arms.

Isaza escaped from a Farc jungle hideout with former Colombian parliamentarian, 63-year-old Oscar Lizcano.

After several days of walking through the jungle, Lizcano and Isaza came across an army unit in the department of Choco on Sunday.

The Colombian defence minister Juan Santos said the military had been planning a rescue operation in the area for five months, and had the area cordoned off.

The Farc had been seeking to swap Lizcano and 28 other high-profile hostages for about 500 of their own members who are in jail.

That group had also included French-Colombian, Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate who was freed by the army almost four months ago, after six years in captivity.

The French Foreign Ministry said that "France was ready to contribute to the settlement of the hostage question in Colombia, in particular by welcoming to our country demobilised members of the Farc, who have given up armed struggle and whose status is in order with the Colombian judiciary." 

"In fact, this is the first time an ex-member of Farc has taken advantage of this agreement," ministry spokesperson Eric Chevalier told France Inter radio.

The Farc insurgency has been trying to overthrow the Colombian government since the 1960s. Some 3,000 people are still held hostage in the country by the Farc and other guerilla movements. 

Comment: Matthieu Tardis, policy officer at France Terre d'Asile

28/10/2008 by Rosslyn Hyams