Indigenous Colombia court jails FARC rebels

Court in Toribio sentences members of left-wing rebel group to decades of imprisonment for killing tribe leaders.

    A Colombian indigenous court has convicted and sentenced seven left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighters, including one leader of the group, for shooting dead two leaders of the Nasa tribe in the western area of the country.

    Carlos Ivan Silva, known as "Fercho", was sentenced to 60 years imprisonment on Sunday, after confessing to killing the two native leaders.

    Other sentences included 40 years imprisonment and 20 lashes for the crimes.

    According to AFP, the victims, Daniel Coicue and Manuel Antonio Tumina, were killed in the rural area of Toribio as they removed billboards praising the late FARC leader, Guillermo Leon Saenz.

    Four members of the FARC group were convicted for having fired "indiscriminately on other members of the community" and sentenced to 40 years in jail, said the leader of the Northern Cauca indigenous councils association, Gabriel Pavi.

    In addition, two teenagers aged 14 and 17 were arrested and sentenced to 20 lashes, but will be held at a rehabilitation centre until age 18 when the council will reconsider their cases.

    The convictions and sentences were determined by an assembly of more than 3,000 members from the indigenous reserve of Cauca province.

    Pavi said the fighters were captured "in uniform and with rifles" and that "all were indigenous".

    In Colombia, indigenous authorities have jurisdiction over their own territory, unless it contradicts the constitution or laws of the country.

    As a result, when crimes are committed in indigenous territory, the punishment for the accused is decided by the community and not the state judicial system.

    Colombia's indigenous population reached 1.4 million in 2005 out of a population of 48.3 million, according to official statistics.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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