FARC leader wanted in US suspends hunger strike

Bogota (AFP) –


Former FARC leader Jesus Santrich said Saturday he has halted a 41-day-old hunger strike, two days after a Colombian court suspended his extradition to the United States.

"In response to the clamor of these voices, I have taken the decision to temporarily suspend my hunger strike," he wrote in a letter read by academic Jairo Estrada after a visit to the Catholic clinic in the Colombian capital where Santrich is being held.

Prosecutors in New York accuse Santrich of conspiring to ship 10,000 kilograms of cocaine to the United States while serving as a senior member of the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

They are pushing for his extradition along with three others who are also allied with the group.

But on Thursday a Colombian court set up to try crimes committed by former leftist rebels during decades of conflict suspended his extradition.

Magistrates will meanwhile examine if he is guilty of the crimes the US said he committed after the signing of the peace agreement with the government, which ended half a century of conflict in Colombia.

The partially-sighted Santrich, 51, has been on hunger strike since April 10, the day after the former guerrilla leader was arrested.

The FARC has warned his arrest could deal a damaging blow to the landmark 2016 peace deal.

The group accused Colombia's prosecutors of colluding with a plan "orchestrated by the US government," describing it as yet another display of "twisted US justice."