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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Former Colombian president Uribe subpoenaed in US federal court...

Colombia's ex-leader Alvaro Uribe subpoenaed in U.S. federal court


Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has been subpoenaed to provide a deposition in a lawsuit against a U.S. coal company that allegedly supported right-wing death squads who killed at least 116 people in that nation.

Uribe is not directly accused of wrong-doing but may shed light on key issues in the case that is being tried in U.S. federal court, said Terry Collingsworth, the plaintiffs' lawyer.

The suit alleges that Alabama-based Drummond worked with the Colombian Army and the United Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC paramilitary group, from 1999-2005 to battle left-wing guerrillas that were threatening its installations there.

Collingsworth represents about 500 plaintiffs who say their family members were killed by the AUC during those operations.

Lawyers want to question Uribe about cooperation between the Colombian Army and the AUC, and what the government knew about Drummond's activities.

Collingsworth also said one of Uribe's aides was on Drummond's payroll at the time.

``What did Drummond get for their money?'' Collingsworth asked.

Uribe, who led Colombia from 2002 to 2010, has maintained his innocence.

Drummond had no comment. However, a jury sided with the company when a similar case was tried in 2007.

This time the plaintiffs have stronger witnesses, said Collingsworth, a lawyer in the Washington, D.C. office of Fort Lauderdale-based Conrad & Scherer.

In particular, members of the AUC who demobilized under a 2005 law have direct knowledge of what happened, he said.

Drummond's not the only U.S. company accused of turning to Colombian paramilitary groups to stave off guerrillas, such as the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). In 2007, banana giant Chiquita admitted to paying $1.7 million to paramilitaries over a seven-year period. In 2001, after some of its union leaders were executed, Coca-Cola was accused of supporting paramilitary groups.
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