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| 6/30/2010 12:00:00 AM

First Sentences for Colombia Paramilitary Leaders

June 30--A Colombian court on Tuesday handed down the first prison sentences to leaders of the illegal far-right militias that demobilized under a peace pact with President Alvaro Uribe's government.

Edward Cobos, better known as ''Diego Vecino,'' and Uber Banquez, alias ''Juancho Dique,'' each received the maximum of eight years in prison dictated by the Justice and Peace law under which they surrendered.

They were also ordered to pay $385,000 each in restitution to relatives of their victims.

By submitting to the Justice and Peace process and confessing to their crimes, the two were able to avoid far harsher sentences of 40 years each for crimes that included ordering massacres, kidnapping and driving people off their land.

Reading the sentence, Judge Uldi Teresa Jimenez said Cobos and Banquez had committed ''serious violations of international humanitarian law, attacking civilians, displacing them from their land, taking the lives of non-combatants and looting their property.''

Cobos and Banquez are among some 50 warlords and 31,000 ''paramilitary'' foot soldiers who demobilized between 2003 and 2006. Among those, 4,100 have cooperated with the Justice and Peace process.

Read more here.
 
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