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P 081620Z MAY 08 FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2674 SUBJECT: ARREST OF COLONEL HERNAN MEJIA CONTINUES PROSECUTION

TREND ON EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS REF: BOGOTA 1602 1. Colonel Hernan Mejia, former commander of the La Popa Battalion, was arrested on May 6 on charges of criminal conspiracy for colluding with paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo (Jorge 40) and committing murder. Mejia surrendered to authorities and publicly denied the charges. The Prosecutor General's office (Fiscalia) also ordered the arrest of three men formerly under Mejia's command--Lieutenant Colonel Jose Ruiz, Sergeant Aureliano Quejada, and retired Sergeant Efrain Andrade. All except Quejada are in custody. 2. The Fiscalia said that Mejia presented at least 20 extrajudicial killing victims as ELN guerrillas killed in combat in 2002. Additionally, former soldiers and demobilized paramilitaries testified that Mejia presented his troops with bodies dressed in fatigues to be claimed as killed in combat. Former paramilitary (now dead) David Hernandez (Jorge 39) testified that Mejia presented 18 supposed guerrillas killed in combat that witnesses recognized as paramilitaries killed by their own men. The men were part of an internal

purge of the AUC group, Martires del Cacique de Upar. 3. The arrest follows the detention of 29 members of the La Popa Battalion for the May 2005 murder of two farmers in Cesar (reftel). In January 2007, Defense Minister Santos publicly stripped the highly decorated Mejia of his command and assigned him to administrative duties due to evidence linking him to possible extrajudicial killings between 2002 and 2004. The Defense Ministry turned over the evidence to the Fiscalia. Mejia's arrest shows further GOC progress in investigating and prosecuting extrajudicial killings. BROWNFIELD (Edited and reading.) reformatted by Andres for ease of