Betancourtâ€™s Jailer Pleads Not Guilty on Drug-Trafficking Charges in the U.S.
Por Dialogo julio 20, 2009Washington, July 17 (EFE).- Today FARC guerrilla Gerardo Antonio Aguilar Ramírez, alias “Cesar,” one of the “jailers” of Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans rescued in July 2008, pleaded “not guilty” to the drug-trafficking charges of which he is accused in the United States. “Cesar,” who was extradited from Bogotá yesterday, appeared before a federal judge in Washington in a hearing attended by Marc Gonsalves, one of the three Americans who were kidnapped in the Colombian jungle for five years. Through his lawyer, Carmen Hernández, the guerrilla pled “not guilty” to the drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges of which he is accused in the United States, while the lawyer recalled that in this case her client is being judged “in a drug-trafficking case, not a kidnapping case.” Nevertheless, prosecutor Eric Snyder pointed out that Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, the three Americans kidnapped by the FARC and freed in Operation Jaque together with Betancourt and eleven other hostages, were carrying out a mission in the fight against drug trafficking when they were kidnapped, thereby attempting to demonstrate that the FARC were impeding law-enforcement action against drug trafficking. Throughout the entire hearing, Gonsalves, who was present as a spectator, never took his eyes off the man on whom he fixed his gaze when he entered the courtroom dressed in the orange jumpsuit worn by prisoners in U.S. jails and with his hands cuffed. “He’s in handcuffs, but he has better conditions in jail than they gave us there,” he told a group of reporters after the hearing. Gonsalves said that he is not seeking “revenge,” but that he wants “Cesar” to go to jail because he thinks that he “does not believe in freedom, and he would go back to the jungle to do the same thing he did to me, or worse.” The Washington Federal District Court judge, Thomas F. Hogan, scheduled a follow-up hearing for July 30; in the meantime the defendant will remain in the D.C. jail, known for its harsh conditions.