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August 31, 2020, 06.17 PM

In March, his immigration attorney told DHS officials that Mancuso had already signed an asylum application, saying his client was “terrified" by the prospect of returning to Colombia.

"There is absolute certainty about the torture he would face and the likelihood of his assassination," attorney Hector Mora wrote in a letter to DHS officials, which came to light in recent court filings.

“He is the target of many powerful groups and individuals that were incriminated, criticized, and exposed throughout his cooperation with the US government, the cooperation with the Colombian judiciary, and his multiple statements."

Mancuso, 55, was the most remorseful of the former right-wing militia leaders after demobilizing, and his eagerness to discuss the paramilitaries’ war crimes has already shaken Colombia’s politics.

His boast in 2005 that a third of Colombia’s congress was elected with paramilitary support triggered a wave of judicial investigations that ended with dozens of elected officials behind bars.

His lawyers contend that others still in power have not hidden their desire to find a Colombian court to order Mancuso’s arrest in an effort to silence him.

This month, President Iván Duque's government submitted to the US what was its fourth extradition request for Mancuso.

One of the earlier requests was unilaterally withdrawn in July after Mancuso’s legal team, led by Miami defense attorney Joaquin Perez, pointed out in US federal court that it was based on an arrest order already canceled by a Colombian judge.

It’s not clear what happened to the other two requests but neither has been validated by a US court.

While Colombian courts have judged Mancuso responsible for more than 1,500 acts of murder or forced disappearance, many of the crimes are not recognized as offenses under US law because they stem from his position atop AUC’s chain of command — not specific orders he gave.

Read also: Ex-Stutthof Concentration Camp Guard Bruno Dey Sentenced for WW II Crimes

In 2001, the US designated the AUC a foreign terror organization.

Mancuso’s lawyers argue the former paramilitary boss has fulfilled his obligations under a 2003 peace deal he negotiated, which caps prison terms at eight years for militia leaders who confess their crimes. 

(Writer: Joshua Goodman) 


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