Middle East

Russia 'frees Israeli mercenary'

AUC rebels, file pic
Image caption Klein was found guilty in Colombia of assisting AUC rebels during the 1980s and 1990s

Russia has released Israeli mercenary Yair Klein, who was sought by Colombia for his involvement in the training of paramilitary squads, reports say.

Klein, a former Israeli army soldier, is on his way to Israel, Interfax news agency reports.

In 2001, a Colombian court convicted him in absentia of training right-wing guerrilla groups.

Russia arrested him in 2007 under an Interpol warrant and later agreed to extradite him to Colombia.

But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) forbid the extradition, on grounds that he might face mistreatment in Colombia.

'Drug lords'

Israel's Channel 10 television showed Klein on Friday leaving a Moscow jail where he was being held.

"Klein has been freed and he is currently en route to Israel," Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed security source as saying.

Klein was sentenced in absentia in 2001 to 10 years and eight months in prison in Colombia for assisting and training drug lords and guerrilla groups in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was found guilty of training a cadre of killers for the infamous Medellin drug cartel, a charge which he denies.

They later became the nucleus of the brutal paramilitary army known as the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), which prosecutors said carried out some of the country's most notorious political assassinations.

He has also served prison time in Sierra Leone in 1999, on charges of smuggling arms to the rebel group Revolutionary United Front.

He has been detained in Russia since 2007. Klein's family has fought extradition, alleging that it would mean certain death.

After several court cases, Russia's Supreme Court rejected his final appeal in 2008, and ordered Klein to be extradited to Colombia.

The ECHR ruled against it, saying Klein could face serous mistreatment.

Although Russia appealed the ECHR decision, the court upheld the decision.

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