Former FARC commander pleads guilty to kidnapping Americans

A former commander with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia pleaded guilty Tuesday to holding three Americans hostage after their plane crashed in the Colombian jungle.

Alexander Beltran Herrera faces up to 60 years in prison for his role in the detention of the American defense contractors, who were held for more than five years before their dramatic rescue by the Colombian military in 2008.

Members of the FARC kidnapped five people involved in an anti-drug surveillance mission after their plane made an emergency landing in 2003. Two of the men were executed at the crash site. Three others — Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes and Keith Stansell — were held hostage.

Beltran Herrera, 37, was extradited from Colombia in 2012. His trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to ask U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth to sentence Beltran Herrerra to no more than 27 years in prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 25.

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Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.
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