US court orders Colombia ex-rebels to pay $36mn over Betancourt kidnap

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Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt is seen here in Bogota in September 2021; her son has won a major legal case in the United States against her former captors (AFP/DANIEL MUNOZ)
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A US court has ordered Colombia's former FARC rebels to pay $36 million in compensation for the kidnapping of presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was held hostage from 2002 to 2008.

According to a January 4 ruling by a federal court in Pennsylvania, which was made public late Thursday, Lawrence Delloye -- the son of Betancourt from her first marriage to Frenchman Fabrice Delloye -- was entitled to $12 million in compensation and may "recover threefold the damages he . . . sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney's fees."

Delloye, a US citizen also known as Lorenzo, was barely a teenager when his mother was abducted.

He sued 14 former leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in June 2018 for compensation under the Antiterrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism to seek damages in US federal courts.

His attorneys from the firm Scarinci Hollenbeck said in a statement that the total amount of damages decided by Judge Matthew Brann was "in excess of $36 million."

The court took into account Delloye's statement that the kidnapping "destroyed [his] sense of confidence, the trust in life and in others, impairing [his] ability to show affection and receive love."

Delloye said the FARC also subjected him to "psychological torture and to emotional abandonment" through his mother's more than six-year absence.

Betancourt, a former Colombian senator with dual French citizenship and who is now 60, was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23, 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidential elections. Her son was 13 at the time.

She was rescued by the army more than six years later on July 2, 2008.

Upon Betancourt's release, "it was not easy for Delloye to reconnect with his mother. He continues to suffer emotional distress from her kidnapping," the US judge noted in his ruling.

Betancourt had been pushing for years for compensation for the psychological damage caused by her long captivity.

A landmark 2016 peace accord between Colombia and the FARC transformed the rebel movement into a legal political party and dramatically reduced violence, although many armed groups continue to operate in the country, including FARC dissidents.

Last November, the US State Department removed the FARC from its terror blacklist but did not change its position on the legal proceedings against former leaders of the group.

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