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2000-06-01

Who Is Israel’s Yair Klein and What Was He Doing in Colombia and Sierra Leone?

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Last weekend, Colombian intelligence agents arrested two Israelis and a Colombian suspected of being part of an arms-smuggling network attempting to deliver more than 50,000 guns to guerrillas. [includes rush transcript]

Colombian officials are investigating whether the detained Israelis are linked to Yair Klein, an Israeli mercenary accused by Colombian authorities of training right-wing paramilitaries and drug-traffickers in the late 1980s and 1990s.

And it is this man Yair Klein that we are going to take a close look at today. It’s the story of a leading mercenary but also of the governments and shadowy forces he has worked with.

In late April, Yair Klein was released from a Sierra Leone prison where he spent 16 months on charges that he was smuggling arms to rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Klein is a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Army. In the 1980s he established a paramilitary mercenary company called Spearhead Ltd. Through this company, Klein began providing arms and training to forces in South America.

In 1989, Klein, along with several other former Israeli officers, was charged by authorities in Colombia of providing paramilitary training and arms to drug lords running international cocaine cartels. He is also accused of training Mafia assassins whose targets have included Colombian politicians. Klein is also suspected of involvement in the explosion of a Colombian airliner in November 1989.

In 1991, Klein was convicted by an Israeli court of illegally exporting military arms and information to a Colombian group. He was fined $13,400. He has denied all charges.

In 1998, Klein was officially indicted in Colombia on charges of training paramilitary units in terror tactics in the late 1980s. He was allegedly one of four Israelis hired by the late drug trafficker Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of the Medellin cartel’s most violent bosses.

The evidence against him includes a training video that he used to instruct death squads in Colombia. The main leaders in the infamous Carlos Castano’s paramilitary groups were trained by Yair Klein.

Massacres, assassinations of politicians and other terror tactics now used by paramilitaries in Colombia were part of the instruction that Yair Klein gave in his training camps.

Guests:

  • Andrew Cockburn, a filmmaker and journalist. Among his works is a Front Line documentary "Israel: The Covert Connection." His latest book he wrote with his brother Independent reporter Patrick Cockburn called ??Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. He also did the documentary on Iraq called "The War We Left Behind."
  • Peter Hirshberg, a reporter for The Jerusalem Report Magazine who has covered Israeli mercenary firms.
  • Jaome Vidal, with Coardinaccion Colombia Europa, a human rights group in Bogota.
  • Maria Jimena Duzan, columnist for Bogota’s daily newspaper El Espectador and author of the book ??Death Beat, an account of the Colombian press’ struggle against the drug trade. El Espectador was bombed in the early 90’s by the Medellin Cartel for its coverage of the drug trade (half the building was destroyed). Also, the publisher/owner was killed by the Medellin Cartel.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Last weekend, Colombian intelligence agents arrested two Israelis and a Colombian suspected of being part of an arms smuggling network attempting to deliver more than 50,000 guns to guerillas. Colombian officials are investigating whether the detained Israelis are linked to Yair Klein, an Israeli mercenary accused by Colombian authorities of training rightwing paramilitaries and drug traffickers in the late 1980s and ’90s.

And it’s this man, Yair Klein, who we’re going to take a close look at today. It’s a story of a leading mercenary, but also of the governments and shadowy forces that he has worked with. In late April, Yair Klein was released from a Sierra Leone prison, where he spent sixteen months on charges that he was smuggling arms to rebels from the Revolutionary United Front.

Klein is a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Army. In the 1980s, he established a paramilitary mercenary compound called Spearhead Limited. Through his company, Klein began providing arms and training to a number of governments in South America. In 1989, Klein, along with several other former Israeli officers, was charged by authorities in Colombia of providing paramilitary training and arms to drug lords running international cocaine cartels. He’s also accused of training Mafia assassins, whose targets have included Colombian politicians. He’s suspected as well of involvement in the explosion of a Colombian airliner in November of 1989. In 1991, Klein was convicted by an Israeli court of illegally exporting military arms and information to a Colombian group. He was fined more than $13,000. He has denied all the charges.

We are going to start right now, as we go around the world to talk with people who have felt the effects of his work and have monitored him, to Israel. We’re joined by Peter Hirshberg, who is a reporter for The Jerusalem Report Magazine, who has covered Israeli mercenary firms. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

PETER HIRSHBERG: Good day.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe to us just who Yair Klein is?

PETER HIRSHBERG: Well, Yair Klein — what’s interesting about Yair Klein is that he has a very impressive military record. His military past in Israel is very impressive. He was a senior commander in the hallowed Israeli paratroopers, and he was also a commander of a secretive reconnaissance unit in Israel, so he does have an impressive military record inside Israel.

Of course, there was a departure from that at some point, and as you have described, he became what many in Israel, I think, would feel is maybe the country’s best known mercenary and, certainly over the last twenty years or so, has been involved in a variety of highly dubious operations. Of course the one that has been most highlighted is his involvement with the Medellin drug cartel inside Colombia. Klein has denied his link to the cartel, but there is still, for instance, a Colombian extradition order outstanding for him to stand trial in Colombia. After that, he was involved in illegally exporting arms to Antigua. And, of course, Sierra Leone is just his latest caper.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Sierra Leone? In this country, very few people know about the very shadowy world of mercenaries working with governments and other forces. But what was he doing with Sierra Leone? Was he connected to the diamond business? And why was he imprisoned there?

PETER HIRSHBERG: Yes, I think that one has to realize with a lot of these people, and certainly with Klein, the military involvement or the security involvement is often the entrée to these countries and that the real interests are in things like diamonds and other raw materials in certain countries, lumber for instance, that are much more lucrative. That is where the real money is, not in training some presidential guard for some dictator in Africa. The real money is in things like diamonds and lumber. And it seems that Klein was involved with diamond mining inside Sierra Leone.

Now, he has denied any involvement with the rebels, although that’s the reason why he was arrested. But when he ultimately stood trial, the initial charge was one of treason, which carries with it a death sentence. But, ultimately, the charges were scaled down, and he was indicted for much lesser charges of fraud. Now, it seems there was some background quiet Israeli government involvement, possibly by the Foreign Ministry, who used their contact inside Sierra Leone, and that might be one of the reasons why the charges were scaled back and why he was ultimately released, because the court ultimately, it has to be said, cleared him of all wrongdoing.

AMY GOODMAN: Were talking to Peter Hirshberg, reporter for The Jerusalem Report. He is based in Jerusalem and has covered Israeli mercenary firms. I understand that the Israeli government also appealed to the US government to help get him out, and yet at the same time the Israeli government has taken him on in Israel.

PETER HIRSHBERG: I think it’s something of an ambivalent relationship and I think partly has to do maybe with his military past and that Yair Klein does have an impressive military record inside Israel. Yet, on the other hand, there’s no question that he is an embarrassment to the Israeli government, and the Israeli government does not want to be seen supporting people who are involved in various types of gun-running. So I think that you have an ambivalent relationship as a result of those two factors.

AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, you have them fining him; on the other hand — in the past — on the other hand, the Israeli government works quite closely with mercenary firms, actually approves them.

PETER HIRSHBERG: Yes, I think — well, yes. What happens is there are a lot of Israeli security firms that are set up in Israel, usually almost all are by ex-military men, and then they begin exporting their expertise abroad. Now, not all of this is pure mercenary activity. For instance, Israeli experts have in the past been in charge of security on various airlines like Pan Am and TWA, or are in charge of putting security in place at Orly Airport in France. So, the activity varies. Some of it is legitimate security work. Of course, there are cases where, like Klein, where things are not as clear and where there is mercenary activity. I think one maybe has to draw some type of distinction. But Israeli security companies that do operate abroad have to get clearance from the Israeli Defense Ministry before they operate abroad.

Now, of course, this is often a murky area that one is operating in, and it has to be pointed out that Israel itself as a country in the past, when it found it very difficult to gain access to Africa after many African states broke off diplomatic ties with Israel — the way they got entrée into these African states was via their military expertise. And they trained, for instance, the presidential guards of a number of African dictators inside Europe. And I think there are probably today a number of people in the Israeli Foreign Ministry who think that that was not the wisest of policies. You take countries like Zaire, you take countries like Cameroon, Liberia, who in the ’80s and early ’90s — Mobutu, for instance, his elite guard was trained by Israelis. And I think maybe today there are some people who are in the diplomatic corps who maybe think that Israel would have better served its interest if it had tried to gain entrée to Africa through its agricultural expertise and medical expertise.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it fair to say this? We saw a lot of times the United States government, when it was too hot for it to directly support, say, military regimes in Central America, they would have Israel, the government, be the surrogate. And then even when it was too hot for the Israeli government, they’d get their mercenaries to do it.

PETER HIRSHBERG: Well, we know — one case that we all know about is the Iran-Contra affair, where there was maybe that type of involvement. But there aren’t many cases that we know of that are as clear as that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Peter Hirshberg, reporter for The Jerusalem Report, speaking to us from Jerusalem.

As we go now to Andrew Cockburn, a filmmaker and journalist. Among his works, a Frontline documentary years ago called Israel: The Covert Connection. His latest book with his brother, reporter Patrick Cockburn, called Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.

You had a chance to meet Yair Klein, when you were doing your documentary on the covert connection.

ANDREW COCKBURN: Yes, indeed. I was in Israel in — indeed in ’89, when he had Spearhead. And he was actually quite forthcoming about his activities, which, of course, he classified as giving advice and training on security and anti-terror. And I remember they took us to a place they called the Partridge Club, which was near Caesarea. It was a canyon where they did weapons training. And he and his men demonstrated some of their fine security and anti-terror techniques, such as how you blow away someone from a moving car; that was the high point of their demonstration.

But he and some of his associates who were there were actually, perhaps, indiscreetly loquacious about where they operated, including Colombia and Guatemala. One of the people working with Spearhead at that time was another Israeli former military guy called Amatzia Shuali, who had trained —- well, he claimed to have trained every officer above the rank of captain in the Guatemalan army. And he was already very familiar with Latin America. He spoke Spanish quite well. He had also, we discovered, had actually taken part in the training of Contras in -—- Nicaraguan Contras in Honduras.

And I think this leads us to the point you mentioned, which is the role of these people, or such people, and of Israel as a surrogate for the United States, when it became too hot, as you put it, for America to be directly involved. I mean, Peter Hirshberg mentioned Iran-Contra, which is the most famous, but also that was definitely what was going on in Guatemala. Israel full stepped into the breach when it became just too embarrassing to be so — for the US to be so overtly involved in promoting, then training and equipping, and so forth, the Guatemalan army, which was, as we know, one large death squad. And that was also true with the Contras. There’s evidence that they were also involved in El Salvador. I mean, it was like a — it was, you know, a good aim for this.

I mean, what stunned — the reason Klein is so sort of well known is he has this thirst for publicity. For example, his name hit the headlines first when he — when a video — well, we’d interviewed him, we sort of discovered him, but later on he became even more famous when he —- the Colombians found this video when they were searching some establishment of one of the Medellin Cartel. And it was a training video. They were training death squads. And -—

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Cockburn, we have to break for stations to identify themselves. When we come back, we’re going to be joined by Maria Jimena Duzan, a columnist for Bogota’s daily newspaper El Espectador. Her sister was killed by people believed to have been trained by Yair Klein. We are also going to go to an excerpt of your documentary, where you interview Yair Klein and Shuali and the other mercenaries. You are listening the Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman. As we talk about just who is Israel’s number one mercenary, Yair Klein, what he was doing in Sierra Leone, just recently released from prison there, and his role in Central America, particularly Colombia. Yair Klein, in 1998 officially indicted in Colombia on charges of training paramilitary units in terror tactics in the late 1980s. He was allegedly one of four Israelis hired by the late drug trafficker, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of the Medellin Cartel’s most violent bosses.

The evidence, as Andrew Cockburn was just telling us, against him, includes a training video that he used to instruct death squads in Colombia. The main leaders in the infamous Carlos Castano’s paramilitary groups were trained by Yair Klein. Massacres, assassinations of politicians and other terror tactics now used by paramilitaries in Colombia were part of the instruction that Yair Klein gave in his training camps.

We go down to Bogota right now to Maria Jimena Duzan, a columnist for Bogota’s daily newspaper El Espectador and author of the book Death Beat, which is an account of the Colombian press’s struggle against the drug trade. Her newspaper was bombed in the early ’90s by the Medellin Cartel for its coverage of the drug trade, and her sister, who was also a reporter, was killed by paramilitaries connected to drug traffickers in 1990, when she was investigating the human rights situation of peasants in Colombia. We welcome you to Democracy Now! Maria Jimena Duzan.

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: How do you do?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, can you start off by telling us the latest news about what are alleged to be mercenaries connected to Klein being arrested? And then talk about who Yair Klein is in Colombia.

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: Well, as far as I know, yes, there has been quite a story that probably it would link again with, or hooked up with Yair Klein. Apparently there has been quite a presence, Israeli presence, here in Colombia trying to, in a way, make a buck, because of the conflict. But, as far as I know, it hasn’t been as clear as it was before, when Yair Klein came here and decided to train the death squads, who were at that time working for the drug cartels, especially the Medellin Cartel, and that were engaged in this immense war against institutions. So that’s — I mean, that’s not quite similar to what happened before, as far as I know.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any knowledge of your sister’s death and any connection to Yair Klein?

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: Well, what I know, because we were the ones who, in a way, ended up discovering that Yair Klein was here and that he was in a way helping these death squads and training them, we ended up in discovering the story because we were doing a story on drug cartels, trying to unravel what was behind the drug cartels and of who were the persons behind the drug cartels, and we ended up discovering not only the video that Cockburn was telling you, but, as well, an incredible amount of proof that told you at that moment how incredible was this business.

And not only they were training, but they were kind of buying arms and selling arms and going up to Antigua, and it was a huge, immense imperio of wrongdoing. And what happened was that after that, all the death squads that were left were trained by them, and they passed — through their generation have been passing their technique. And, yes, of course, my sister was killed as well, with these ones who were trained as well with Yair Klein, as tons of Colombians were killed.

AMY GOODMAN: Your own apartment was bombed?

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: Yes, my own apartment was bombed, but that was before — that was not part of that time. That was five years ago when we started out doing stories on only how the guerilla used to work. But then we end up seeing that as well there was this huge parliamentary army going around the country, and we discovered that they were hooked up with drug lords in a war against institutions, and so therefore they killed so many.

They didn’t — I mean, they killed not only peasants, as it happened with my sister, because my sister was killed along with four or five peasants in a massacre nearby where Carlos Castano is right now, but, as well, tons of politicians and tons of very important people that are really right now making us a lot of — I mean, we really need them right now in this crisis in Colombia. So, it’s really a huge effect that they have had in the crisis in Colombia, because they really, in a way, took an army which was, you know, conformed or integrated by what we call sicarios, which were our street gang boys, and betrayed them in the most deadly ways of killing people. And look what had happened. You know, we end up in necklace bombs here in Colombia.

AMY GOODMAN: When Yair Klein was freed from the Sierra Leone prison — he, by the way, had escaped, then went back and was tried, and the Israeli government hailed the judge as a very brave judge for letting him go. What are your thoughts then about the Israeli government in relation to Yair Klein?

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: Well, we were really, you know, into this four or five years ago with Yair Klein. We contacted him when the Colombian justice decided to indict him. And so, we knew that he was in Israel. That was before Sierra Leone. And so, we contacted him, and he was having — he was in this — I think it was in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, I don’t know. And he was the owner of a restaurant, and so we contacted him, and I don’t know if you know, but my newspaper was bombed, as well. And we believe that the bombing of the newspaper was linked as well with Yair Klein.

And so, we asked him what happened when, you know — "Did you know about this thing going against this newspaper?" And he just said, "Well, you know, it happens, you know. Why — sometimes you have to bomb things, and I think that the newspaper was a communist newspaper." So that’s what he said! So, that’s the way we think Yair Klein is. He is just a mercenary that thinks that he’s waging out in an ideologic war, a surrogate in a way for American interests. And that was the last time Colombia heard Yair Klein, actually.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Cockburn, filmmaker and journalist, you did this documentary, Israel: The Covert Connection. We want to go to a segment of it right now, and could you set it up? This is the part of the film where you go to Spearhead Limited. It starts with the man you called Shuali.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right. I mean, they were — the basic theme of the film was Israel’s role in assisting the United States in covert activities of this kind around the world. So we’d found these — Klein and his merry men in Israel. And the interesting part about it is that they were keen to do it. They wanted to promote themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: And this documentary you did with reporter Leslie Cockburn, with your wife.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s called Israel: The Covert Connection. Let’s take a listen.

LESLIE COCKBURN: While still on active duty with Israel’s elite border guards, Lieutenant Colonel Shuali says he trained nearly all of the officers above the rank of Captain in the Guatemalan Army.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: All of our instructors have this operational experience.

LESLIE COCKBURN: Shuali works with Dror Eyal and Yair Klein, marketing and managing directors of the Spearhead Corporation, licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Defense.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: We always prefer to work for governments or for official organizations. In some cases, we would work for private or semi-private, semi-governmental organizations. But in that case, of course, it will be under the complete approval and authorization of our Ministry of Defense.

LESLIE COCKBURN: Spearhead is advertised by the Israeli Ministry of Defense as specialists in anti-terror and military know-how. They offered to give us a demonstration of their professional skills.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: The Americans have the problem of public opinion, international image. We don’t have this problem. Our political views are very much parallel to the American political views, fighting terrorism, especially in that part of the world. We would be glad if the American authorities would turn to us and ask us to do the job.

YAIR KLEIN: [in background] Contras.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: Yeah, Yair mentioned the Contras. I think here it’s the same thing: the Americans won’t interfere directly. We are willing to do it.

ANDREW COCKBURN: Do you just assume that the American government will approve of what you’re doing, or do you have to ask permission?

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: We are positive that what we are doing is within the interests of the Americans, and so far it was always like that.

ANDREW COCKBURN: You would have heard about it if it wasn’t.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: Of course.

ANDREW COCKBURN: How’s business?

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: [speaking in foreign language]

YAIR KLEIN: [speaking in foreign language]

AMY GOODMAN: That was Yair Klein.

LT. COL. AMATZIA SHUALI: Doing okay.

LESLIE COCKBURN: Along with the supply of seasoned advisors and a reliable source of arms, Israel can offer another important service. When regimes in Latin America or Africa find it difficult to persuade Congress to approve US aid, Israel can lobby for their cause.

UNIDENTIFIED 1: There are a number of third world leaders who believe that Israel is terribly influential in the US and feel that if they can work with Israel, they’ll get a better deal.

UNIDENTIFIED 2: Yes, that myth exists. We have done nothing to encourage it. But I do agree with you that there is such a myth and that it does exist, and people come to us sometimes and say, "Look, please, we want to improve our relations with the United States. Please help us."

UNIDENTIFIED 3: It’s a major selling point for Israel in the third world, and we can use an example, General Mobutu of Zaire, who suffers from a considerable public relations problem in the US, or an image problem. Basically, when you mention Mr. Mobutu, what people think about is a bloody dictator who has $5 billion in Swiss bank accounts, while his people are starving. So this doesn’t make him look very good in the US Congress or the US media. And in this particular case, Israel comes to the rescue.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the Frontline documentary that actually aired in 1989 called Israel: The Covert Connection. Andrew Cockburn and Leslie Cockburn did this documentary for PBS. Andrew Cockburn, would you like to now update it or add more?

ANDREW COCKBURN: Well, those days were the high points, when the US — you know, the days of the Cold War, when we were fighting these covert wars around the place in Central America and facing the Red Menace, as was alleged in Africa. And so, that was a very important part of Israel’s role in the documentary there.

At that time — I think with the end of the Cold War, things got a little muddier. You know, there’s not the same sort of requirement with the end of the — most of the wars in Central America, at least. I don’t think that it’s quite so institutionalized now. So it’s interesting. I mean, you talk about these recent arrests in Colombia, where they were supplying —- the Israelis may have been supplying the FARC or the ELN, one of the guerilla groups. It’s become much more mercenary. That would never have happened in the old days, I think. So I don’t think Klein was in Sierra Leone, was necessarily working at the behest of the Israelis or the behest of the Untied States in doing what he was doing. It is true -—

AMY GOODMAN: Although it sounded like they helped get him out.

ANDREW COCKBURN: They did. Well, I know for a fact that the Israeli government was putting on very heavy pressure in Washington, when he was in jail, to get the US to help get him out. And I wouldn’t wish to insult in any way the integrity of the Sierra Leone justice system, but I feel that the judge’s decision was obviously dictated from above and far away to let him out at last.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone from Colombia by Jaome Vidal, who is with the Coardinaccion Colombia Europa, a human rights group in Bogota who looks at mercenary groups there. With this latest news of the mercenaries being arrested that are believed to be connected to Yair Klein, can you put this in a broader context?

JAOME VIDAL: Yeah. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

JAOME VIDAL: Thanks. I should state very clearly that all my statements will be my personal opinion and will not engage my [inaudible], and this should be very clear to all the listeners. And talking about Yair Klein, I think it’s very important about his relationship with the drug traffickers, as you said before, with Rodriguez Gacha and Pablo Escobar, but not only in what is known as narco-terrorism, but in the confirmation of the first paramilitary groups called MAS, Death to Kidnappers, Muerte a Secuestradores in Spanish. It was a group — it was financed by drug traffickers, and it was focused against guerilla groups, because they had kidnapped some relative of Pablo Escobar and had killed them.

And these first paramilitary groups, MAS especially, are like the first paramilitary groups of this dirty war in Colombia. And Carlos Castano is like the evolution of these groups. I mean that the role of Yair Klein in training them, in teaching them, is really important to understand the current strength of these groups.

And I think it is important to distinguish the narco-terrorism of Pablo Escobar and Rodriguez Gacha during the '80s of the paramilitary activity with political objectives from the beginning of the ’90s, because I think that Klein is closely related to this new strategy of war. I mean that he trained the men provided by Escobar and Rodriguez Gacha in tactics like massacres, like massive retaliations, which are more linked to a dirty war than a regular warfare against guerilla groups that's the broader framework of narco-terrorism. I mean that narco-terrorism was mainly made by car bombs and this kind of indiscriminate terrorism. But the political warfare of the paramilitary is more related to selective killing and massacres.

AMY GOODMAN: Maria Jimena Duzan, does Israel have an extradition agreement with Colombia? Do you see Colombia actually bringing him back and trying him, since he has been indicted by the government on charges of training paramilitary units in terror tactics? Interesting that the Colombian government — their military units often work with these paramilitary units.

MARIA JIMENA DUZAN: Well, as far as what we know, that’s the biggest thing that we’re facing, you know. And I think that Yair Klein was indicted like six years ago or something like that. And up to now, nothing has been established because of what happened in terms of extradition. Apparently the government, there’s a link, or it’s not being — it’s not really working on behalf of the indictment here, and, in a way, all things have been stopped. And up to now, we just don’t think Yair Klein’s going to come here and face justice here. So that’s what happens, and never, as far as I know, the government nor the Israeli embassy here have been discussed up to now what should be the situation with Yair Klein. That’s pitiful for Colombians.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all very much for being with us, as we get this brief glimpse at Israel’s number one mercenary, Yair Klein, just release from a Sierra Leone prison. Maria Jimena Duzan has been with us, a columnist for Bogota’s daily newspaper El Espectador, certainly knows the violence that Yair Klein is connected to. Her own book Death Beat is an account of the Colombian press’s struggle against the drug trade and violence. Also, her sister, a reporter, was killed by paramilitaries. We also have been joined by Jaome Vidal, speaking to us from Bogota, a human rights activist. Peter Hirshberg, on the line earlier with us from Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Report. And Andrew Cockburn, filmmaker and journalist; among his works, the Frontline documentary Israel: The Covert Connection; his latest book with his brother Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.

And speaking of the violence in Colombia, on Monday we’ll be joined in studio by Ignacio Gomez. You may remember a few days ago on Democracy Now!, Maria Carrion, who just returned from Colombia, our producer, interviewed him about the threats that journalists face, and he said he didn’t want to talk about it, because once you start talking about it, it surrounds you. Well, he is now surrounded by bodyguards in Colombia just a week later. And as we speak, he’s getting on a plane to New York. So, he’ll be joining us in the studio on Monday, as he’s been targeted. One of his colleagues at the newspaper was kidnapped last week and came back with a death list from her kidnappers, and among those people on it was Ignacio Gomez.

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