Published March 18, 2014
A commander of a Colombian terrorist organization pleaded guilty Tuesday to hostage-taking charges involving three U.S. citizens.
Alexander Beltran Herrera, 37, a commander of the FARC terrorist organization, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the 2003 hostage-taking of U.S. citizens Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell.
The three men were abducted along with Thomas Janis, a United States citizen, and Sgt. Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, after their single-engine aircraft made a crash landing in the Colombian jungle, according to a press release by the U.S. Justice Department.
The release said that FARC members killed Janis and Cruz at the spot where the aircraft crashed. The FARC members told the three others that they were going to hold them as hostages while they made demands of the Colombian government.
FARC's official name, translated into English, is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The three hostages were held for nearly 2,000 days and finally got their freedom when the Colombian military rescued them in 2008.
The release said: “FARC jailors and guards used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape.”
“Alexander Beltran Herrera was a terrorist and commander in the FARC organization who held three Americans hostage in the Colombian jungle,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen.
“With today's guilty plea, he admitted to his role in terrorizing these Americans, who were held in captivity for more than five years. His extradition and prosecution reflect our determination to bring to justice anyone who sets out to harm our fellow citizens overseas.”
Beltran Herrera pleaded guilty to three counts of hostage-taking.
He is to be sentenced July 25.
The offense of hostage-taking carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the DOJ said, although as part of the extradition process from Colombia, the United States agreed not to seek a sentence exceeding 60 years.