Colombian given 33-year jail sentence for raising FARC hostage's son


A member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas mans a checkpoint near the town of Toribio, in the Colombian department of Cauca.


Luis Robayo

Colombian peasant José Crisanto Gómez has been sentenced to 33 years in jail for kidnapping and extortion after looking after the infant son of a FARC hostage.

In 2005, Gómez, now 45, was handed the eight-month-old baby of Clara Rojas, a woman who was being held hostage by FARC rebels and who had given birth while in captivity. Gómez looked after the infant for seven months before bringing him to a state orphanage. The child was there until DNA tests identified him.

"If it takes me the rest of my life to prove my innocence, I'm willing to do it because I am completely innocent and I have not committed any crime," said Gómez, a father of seven small children. "I did not kidnap anyone, I was not part of the FARC. The only thing I did (with Rojas's son) was an act of good faith, a humanitarian act."

A court in the central city of Villavicencio overturned an earlier decision to absolve Gómez of the charges.

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Gómez was living in rural Guaviare province with his family when members of the FARC ordered him to look after the baby. He said the rebel group gave him the boy because his father-in-law was a healer and the baby was sick.

The family looked after the baby until they fled to the provincial capital, San José del Guaviare, because of the area's armed conflict. In the city, Gómez took the child to the hospital, saying he was a relative. The baby's broken arm made the nurses doubtful of Gómez, and a DNA test revealed that the two were not related. Gómez left the infant with state authorities when questions kept coming about his relationship to the child.

The boy was only identified as the son of Rojas in January 2008, after a long search by his grandmother.