Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jair Klein - Free?

Scot Free?
Israeli mercenary Yair Klein allegedly trained Colombian (and Lebanese) paramilitaries, as well as cocaine king Pablo Escobar's hitmen, who went on to commit massacres. Colombia convicted him en absentia for his crimes here.

In 2007, Klein was arrested in Russia, and there followed a three-year legal battle by Colombia to extradite him. However, the European Court of Human Rights issued an opinion that Klein's rights would be endangered in Colombia. This October, Russian officials decided to follow the court's recommendation and return Klein to Israel, Klein's lawyer just told the Jerusalem Post.

Bones from a mass grave of paramlitary victims.
The case is packed with ironies - the first being this mercenary who has allegedly collaborated with horrendous human rights violations in Colombia, Africa and likely other areas, appealing for mercy on human rights grounds. Most likely, Klein is right when he says he came here train paramilitaries with the blessing of the Colombian government. But does that justify his collaboration? Wasn't obedience to government the defense used by many Nazi war criminals?

It's even more ironic - and sad - to see parts of the Israeli government defending this man, even if he is 'something of a war hero,' as one Israeli tells me. After all, Israel's creation was in great degree a response to state-sponsored massacres.

In January 2011, Colombia asked Israel to extradite Klein. Klein claims that Colombian government officials had invited him to come here and that he didn't know that he was training bad guys.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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