Colombia court clears Crisanto Gomez of kidnap charge
- 17 December 2013
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
The Supreme Court in Colombia has acquitted Jose Crisanto Gomez, who had been sentenced to 33 years in jail for kidnapping the son of a Farc hostage.
In 2005, Farc rebels handed him the baby of Clara Rojas, a woman they were holding hostage and who had given birth in captivity.
He had always maintained his innocence, saying he had no ties to the rebels.
The court ruled that citizens cannot be expected to stand up to armed rebels in areas under guerrilla control.
The Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a tribunal in the central city of Villavicencio that had found Mr Gomez guilty of kidnapping, rebellion and giving false testimony.
The Supreme Court judges said it had not been proven that Mr Gomez was a member of the Farc, Colombia's largest rebel group.
They also said that El Retorno, the village in southern Guaviare province where Mr Gomez was living with this family, had been under rebel control and he could therefore not be expected to go against their demand to look after the child.
Mr Gomez and his family lived in a one-room shack when the rebels handed him the eight-month-old boy in January 2005.
He said the guerrilla gave him the boy because his father-in-law was a healer, and the baby was ill.
Mr Gomez and his family looked after the baby for a total of seven months until nurses became suspicious during a hospital visit.
Noting the boy's broken and untreated arm - an injury he had sustained during his delivery by Caesarean section in the makeshift jungle camp where he was born - they suspected Mr Gomez of abusing the boy.
They carried out a DNA test, which revealed Mr Gomez and the boy were not related.
Unable to care for the boy and facing growing questions by medical staff, Mr Gomez agreed to hand the baby over to the state authorities, which put him into foster care.
However, the boy's identity was not revealed until January 2008.
A policeman who had been held hostage along with Clara Rojas, and who had managed to escape from the Farc, told Ms Rojas's mother about the boy, whom Ms Rojas had named Emmanuel.
According to Mr Gomez, it was at this time that he first found out about the true identity of the child, and informed the authorities.
Ms Rojas's mother then began to search orphanages throughout the country for a trace of her grandson.
A child matching his description was finally found in a foster home in the capital, Bogota. A DNA comparison between the boy and Ms Rojas's mother showed the two were related.
Ms Rojas was released by the Farc in January 2008 and re-united with her son shortly afterwards, after three years of separation.
Mr Gomez was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in April 2013.
Hearing of his acquittal, he spoke of his relief and joy: "It's a sign that justice does exist in Colombia after all," he told local media.
"This is an opportunity to rebuild my life, to be reborn after this difficult situation and to give hope to my children, who had to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what would become of them if I was jailed."
Last year, the Farc announced it would stop kidnapping people, one of the preconditions the government had set for peace talks with the rebels.
Peace negotiations have been under way for over a year now, with the two sides so far reaching agreement on two out of six of the main points on their agenda.