Betancourt and Shakira lead worldwide protests against FARC

Politician and ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt will host a protest concert in Paris on Sunday against Colombia's rebel group FARC, which continues to hold hundreds of hostages. Pop star Shakira will be at the head of demonstrations in Colombia.


Colombian ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt was set Sunday to stage a concert as part of a worldwide day of rallies calling for the release of hundreds of captives still held by rebels in the Colombian jungle.

The concert was due to kick off early afternoon with some 30 different artists performing in a square across the river from the Eiffel Tower.

Betancourt, who holds also French nationality, was rescued on July 2 in an operation by Colombian armed forces who said they tricked her rebel captors into handing her over along with three Americans and 11 other Colombian hostages.

"On July 20, I want to shout out, with you, for the independence and liberty of those who are still hostage of the FARC in Colombia," Betancourt told the French parliament early this month.

The 46-year-old politician was abducted in 2002 by rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while campaigning for the Colombian presidency.

After being reunited with her children who live in Paris, she returned to France where her ordeal in the Colombian jungle had turned her into a cause celebre.

Betancourt was due to speak later Sunday at the Paris concert, which was to be broadcast live on Colombian television.

In Colombia, pop star Shakira was set to lead nationwide demonstrations Sunday in her native country demanding the liberation of the hostages held by rebels in the jungle for years.

Around 80 solidarity rallies are also planned in other cities around Latin America and the rest of the world.

The FARC continues to detain an estimated 700 hostages. Up to 2,000 more are believed to be held by the National Liberation Army, another leftist rebel group.

Sunday's rallies are calling for their immediate release, and those of prisoners held by other rebel groups.

Around five million people are expected to take part in demonstrations in some 1,000 towns and cities across Colombia.

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