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Jailed Colombian rebels launch hunger strike

IANS 29 Nov 2014, 6:45:35 AM IST

Havana: More than 100 jailed guerrillas in Colombia initiated a hunger strike this week to protest neglect and abuse behind bars, representatives of the FARC rebel group said here on Friday.

Four other rebels sewed their mouths shut as an "extreme manifestation" of outrage and desperation, according to a statement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) delegates taking part in peace talks in Havana with the Colombian government.

The FARC spoke out Tuesday about the conditions endured by guerrillas locked up at Eron-Picota prison in Bogota.

The FARC cited the case of Edison Martinez, who they said was in danger of losing a leg to infection because of a lack of medical care.

While Martinez finally received treatment two days later, Eron-Picota prison alone holds "more than 20 patients in delicate health" who have yet to receive proper medical attention, the FARC said Friday.

The FARC said many of its jailed fighters are contending with overcrowding, torture, psychological abuse, lack of healthcare and "all kinds of harassment."

Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate, captain Jorge Rodriguez and attorney Gloria Urrego were seized Nov 16 while traveling without escort in a remote hamlet of Choco, a mostly jungle province where the FARC have a strong presence.

The seizure of Alzate led Santos to suspend the peace talks with the FARC in Cuba, but the guerrillas said last week that they were working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to arrange the release of general and his companions and two other soldiers captured in combat Nov 9.

The guerrillas handed over the two soldiers Tuesday.

Santos has said that the two-year-old peace process will resume once all five prisoners are delivered to the Red Cross.