Document Introduced as Evidence in Trial of Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega

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Washington, DC, October 8, 2009 - A declassified U.S. State Department document filed in a Colombian court yesterday blames the Colombian Army, and Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega in particular, for the deaths of over 70 people during military operations to retake the Palace of Justice building from insurgents who had seized the building in November 1985. The document, a January 1999 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, was obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act.

The cable states in paragraph four that Col. Plazas Vega (misspelled as "Plazas Vargas") "commanded the November, 1985 Army raid on the Supreme Court building" and that the operation "resulted in the deaths of more than 70 people, including eleven Supreme Court justices." The Embassy adds that soldiers under the command of Col. Plazas Vega "killed a number of M-19 members and suspected collaborators hors de combat, including the Palace's cafeteria staff."

Col. Plazas Vega is currently on trial for the disappearances of eleven civilians during the course of the operation, several of whom worked in the Palace cafeteria. The Palace of Justice tragedy began on November 6, 1985, after insurgents from the M-19 guerrilla group seized the building, taking a number of hostages. The building caught fire and burned to the ground during Colombian military and police force efforts to retake the Palace, killing most of the guerrillas and hostages still inside.

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