Venezuela deports 16 Colombian in assassination attempt case.

Venezuela deported on Wednesday 16 Colombians who were charged with belonging to a paramilitary force planning to assassinate President Hugo Chavez.

The 16 deportees, arrested in Caracas in May 24, were among a group of 33 Colombians who decided to become witnesses in return for immunity from prosecution.

Dario Angarita, Colombian consul in Caracas, said on Wednesday the group was never charged, and received special protection from the authorities.

The 16 Colombians deported Wednesday were allowed to leave Venezuela because of their cooperation with authorities. The other 17 members of the 33 who entered the special witnesses program arestill being held under special circumstances.

Angarita said that there have been 67 hearings in Caracas to date relating to the remaining 100 suspects accused by Venezuelan authorities of being rebels.

The consul said the suspects are being held in dignified conditions and their human rights are being respected, as well as their right to legal defense and due process.

According to Colombia's government, only eight of the 133 have criminal records of robbery and carrying weapons, and there is no evidence that they belong to far-right paramilitary groups in Colombia.

[Source: Xinhua News Agency, Caracas, 18Aug05]

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