Swedish journo found guilty over ties to FARC

Swedish journo found guilty over ties to FARC
A Colombian court has convicted the director of a news website considered close to left-wing FARC rebels of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, a crime punishable by eight years in prison.

Joaquin Perez Becerra, who runs the New Colombia News Agency (Anncol), a website critical of the Colombian government and considered by Bogota to be closely linked to FARC, was to be sentenced later this month.

Born in Colombia, Perez Becerra acquired Swedish citizenship after moving there more than two decades ago as a political refugee.

He established the agency in 1995 and began publishing messages from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s oldest insurgency.

He was arrested in April 2011 while passing through Caracas and handed over to Colombian authorities, who initially accused him of being the FARC’s top official in Europe, where he was allegedly in charge of raising funds.

He has never been formally charged with financing terrorism, however.

Perez Becerra, who denies being part of the FARC and insists he is an ordinary journalist, can appeal the conviction or seek to serve his sentence in Sweden.

Speaking with the TT news agency, his attorney claimed Perez Becerra’s conviction was political and had nothing to do with the rule of law, but was simply meant to further the interests of the Colombian state.

“It’s an absurd ruling,” Rodolfo Rios told TT by telephone, adding that he plans to appeal the conviction.

The conviction, announced Tuesday, comes as Bogota and the FARC prepare to hold their first peace talks in a decade next month, aimed at ending Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

The FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964, has suffered a string of military setbacks in recent years but still has some 9,000 fighters, mainly in the country’s remote jungles.

TT/AFP/The Local

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