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FARC appeals for rebel leader's release from US prison

FARC Commander Pablo Catatumbo (C) gives a speech next to Commander Jesus Santrich (R) and Commander Rodrigo Granda at Convention Palace of Havana, on January 15, 2014, before peace talks with the Colombian government
FARC Commander Pablo Catatumbo (C) gives a speech next to Commander Jesus Santrich (R) and Commander Rodrigo Granda at Convention Palace of Havana, on January 15, 2014, before peace talks with the Colombian government

FARC rebels appealed Saturday for the immediate release of one of their leaders from prison in the United States, as they resumed peace talks with the Colombian government.

"This is an SOS to all organizations defending human rights in the world... to ask for the immediate release of Simon Trinidad," the leader of the rebel delegation, Ivan Marquez, told reporters.

Trinidad, 63, whose real name is Juvenal Palmera, was extradited to the United States December 31, 2004 and sentenced to 60 years in prison for the abduction of three US citizens, who were held for four years by the FARC after their capture in Colombia.

The FARC has demanded Trinidad's release since the start of the 14-month old peace talks here, which reconvened Saturday after a two-day break.

"We urge the Colombian government to allow Simon, as an integral member of the FARC peace delegation, to participate with his peers in Havana," Marquez said.

He also urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to make "a humanitarian visit" to Trinidad in prison.

Trinidad is serving his sentence at a federal "supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado.

Marquez said his "isolation is total. He doesn't have adequate medical care; they took away his glasses and cards for playing solitaire. At hearings he is always led, in chained at the ankles and hands. He doesn't have the right to a newspaper or a book," Marquez said.

The Colombian government delegation, led by former vice president Humberto de la Calle, had no comment upon arrival.

Both sides exchanged proposals Wednesday on one of the talks' main agenda items, illegal drugs.

Despite slow progress, President Juan Manuel Santos, said Friday that he expects to conclude negotiations in 2014, but doubts the signing of an agreement will occur before presidential elections in May.

The talks began in November 2012.

Founded in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is Colombia's largest rebel group, with an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 fighters.