Sunday, May 18, 2008

Colombian paramilitary member appears in US court

HOUSTON - A member of a right-wing paramilitary group who was extradited from Colombia made his first appearance in Houston federal court Friday on a charge he participated in a $25 million arms-for-cocaine deal.

Diego Alberto Ruiz Arroyave was one of 14 right-wing paramilitaries nabbed in a surprise pre-dawn operation this week and brought to the United States to face charges of supporting a terrorist organization and drug trafficking. Many of the others made their court appearances earlier in New York, Washington, Miami and Tampa, Fla.

During a brief court hearing, Ruiz appeared before a federal magistrate judge on a charge of conspiring to provide material support and resources to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials, AUC. The U.S. has listed the group a terrorist organization.

A federal magistrate judge scheduled a bond hearing for Ruiz for May 23.

Prosecutor Jeff Vaden said in court that the federal government believes Ruiz is a flight risk and should be denied bail.

Ruiz's attorney, Erik Sunde, declined to comment after the hearing.

The charge stems from an indictment by a federal grand jury in Houston that accuses Ruiz of participating in a scheme to acquire Russian and Eastern European-made weapons for the AUC in exchange for cocaine. The weapons included shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault weapons. The AUC never got any weapons.

Ruiz was one of six men who participated in the plot, the indictment said.......

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