Ingrid Betancourt sues Colombia for $6.8 mln over kidnap

Fri Jul 9, 2010 7:49pm GMT

By Hugh Bronstein

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who spent six years as a rebel hostage before being rescued, has sued the Andean nation over her kidnapping, sparking outrage from the government that freed her.

The suit seeks $6.8 million (4.5 million pounds) in damages from the state for emotional stress and loss of earnings while she was being held in secret jungle camps by Marxist guerrillas.

But Colombia's Defence Ministry said on Friday Betancourt had no reason to blame the government for her kidnapping by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while she campaigned for the presidency in 2002.

State security officials had warned her against entering the battle-stricken area in southern Caqueta province where she was taken because it was filled with rebels at the time.

In July 2008, Betancourt's FARC jailers were duped into handing her and 14 other hostages, including three U.S. anti-drug contractors, over to Colombian soldiers masquerading as members of a humanitarian group that had volunteered to fly them by helicopter to a new location.

"The Defence Ministry is surprised and upset by (Betancourt's suit), all the more due to the effort and zeal with which our public forces planned and executed the rescue," a ministry statement said.

"Men and women of the armed forces risked their lives while seeking the liberty of the hostages in an operation that Ingrid Betancourt herself called 'perfect,'" it said.

The rescue was a humiliating blow to the FARC, which has been put on the defensive by a U.S.-backed military campaign aimed at crushing the cocaine-funded insurgency.   Continued...

<p>Former FARC hostage, French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt (L), gestures during a news conference amid a ceremony for the two-year anniversary of "Operation Jaque", a Colombian military operation that freed 15 hostages including Betancourt, at a military school in Bogota July 2, 2010. REUTERS/John Vizcaino</p>
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