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FARC rebel pleads guilty to taking US hostages in 2003

August 26, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A former FARC rebel pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. court to taking three U.S. citizens hostage in Colombia in 2003.

Diego Alfonso Navarete Beltrán, who was extradited from Colombia to the United States in 2014, entered the guilty plea in the U.S. District Court of the District of Colombia. Navarete Beltrán, 42, had initially pleaded not guilty upon his extradition.

He now faces the possibility of a maximum sentence of life in prison for hostage-taking, in a sentencing hearing to be held in November, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

“With this guilty plea, Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran has admitted his participation in the hostage-taking and captivity of three Americans by the FARC, a Colombian terrorist organization,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement.

The rebel group kidnapped U.S. defense contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell in 2003 after their plane made an emergency landing during an anti-drug surveillance mission.

The three Americans were held for the next five years, and the DOJ said that for two of those years the hostages were under the control of the FARC unit in which Navarette Beltrán was an armed guard.

Navarette Beltrán is the third member of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to be convicted for his role in the hostage-taking, according to the DOJ.

Another FARC rebel, Alexander Beltran Herrera, pleaded guilty in U.S. court last March to participating in the hostage-taking.

Peace talks between the FARC and the government of Colombia resumed last month in Havana.

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