Colombia set to release rebels

President announces government plan for prisoner swap with leftist Farc movement.

    Farc seek the release of about 500 of their
    fighters from state prisons [AP]

    Among the hostages currently held by Farc are three American nationals and Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician.

     

    "I have a commitment, a reason of state to have the Farc issue ready before June 7," Uribe said of the exchange plan.

     

    He did not say how many Farc prisoners the government will release.

     

    Farc leaders wish to have 500 of their imprisoned members freed.

     

    Exchange

     

    Uribe said the rebels should agree "to not commit crimes, to demobilise and to leave with a commitment to be peace emissaries."

     

    He has previously advocated military attacks against Farc rebels to free hostages held by the group, but on May 12 he ordered the government to pursue efforts towards a prisoner swap.

    Uribe has not said how many Farc prisoners
    his government intends to release [AP]

    France has sought such an exchange to guarantee the safety of Betancourt, a candidate for the Colombian presidency at the time of her seizure in 2002.

     

    Eduardo Cifuentes, a former supreme court justice, said that Uribe should still adhere to the rule of law in effecting any prisoner exchange.

     

    "Governors of democratic states ... cannot simply invoke a reason of state, because they are subject to the rule of law," he said.

     

    Traditionally, Farc leaders have rejected offers of a unilateral government prisoner release.

     

    They have said before that they would only negotiate a swap if the government creates a demilitarised zone in two southwestern Colombian towns.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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