Julio Cesar Turbay, 89, a former Colombian president who negotiated the release in 1980 of dozens of diplomats taken hostage by leftist rebels during a party at the Dominican ambassador's residence in Bogota, died of a heart ailment at a clinic in Bogota.
The former Liberal Party leader, who led the nation from 1978 to 1982, faced allegations of torture and forced disappearances carried out by security forces during his administration.
In recent years, he became a vocal supporter of President Alvaro Uribe's efforts to modify the constitution to allow Colombian presidents to seek a second consecutive term in office. Colombia's Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the issue in coming months.
Mr. Turbay dealt with one of Colombia's most notorious terrorist attacks. On Feb. 27, 1980, fighters from the M-19 guerrilla group took 50 officials hostage, including 16 ambassadors and the papal delegate, in a cunning raid at the Dominican ambassador's home.
Rebels in tracksuits, posing as soccer players in front of the residence, kicked a ball over the wall. Pretending to retrieve it, they killed a guard and forced their way into the building. A two-hour shootout left one guerrilla dead and two soldiers wounded.
Sixty-one days later, the rebels were allowed to fly to Cuba with $1 million in ransom. Authorities had turned down demands that they release jailed rebels and pay $50 million.
"His calm and measured handling of one of the most difficult political-military acts that Colombia faced at the time was admirable," Rosemberg Pabon, leader of the hostage takers, later recalled after he was granted amnesty when the M-19 laid down its arms in 1990.
In 1990, Mr. Turbay saw his journalist daughter, Diana, abducted by gunmen working for drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. She was killed during a botched rescue attempt.