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Colombias top cop seeks extradition of colonel sacked in corruption case
Colombia Police Chi 5352424
Colombia's National Police Director, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, gestures during an interview with The Associated Press in Bogota, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    BOGOTA, Colombia — A police colonel sacked for abetting one of Colombia’s most-wanted drug traffickers should be extradited to the United States as an example, the country’s police chief told The Associated Press on Thursday.
    The case of Col. Juan Carlos Martinez, who was chief of operations in the northern state of Cesar, ‘‘is the most aberrant case of corruption that I’ve ever seen,’’ Gen. Oscar Naranjo said in an AP interview.
    Naranjo said he fired Martinez on Jan. 18, immediately after he was caught — along with his wife and 16-year-old daughter — escorting wanted trafficker Miguel Angel Mejia in a three-auto motorcade.
    Martinez, who had 21 years on the force, has not been arrested but Naranjo said he expected prosecutors to charge him soon. In order to be extradited, Martinez also would have to be indicted in the United States.
    Police had learned that Mejia, one of two brothers for whom the U.S. State Department has offered $5 million rewards, was in the area and set up a roadblock at a toll plaza, said Naranjo.
    A pair of motorcyclists riding ahead of Mejia’s convoy detected the roadblock, alerted the convoy and the criminals exchanged gunfire with pursuing police, he said.
    Mejia escaped, but police first halted one SUV in which they found Martinez’s wife, daughter, address book and radio, said Naranjo. Shortly thereafter they halted another, with bullet holes in it, in which Martinez was riding, he added.
    The police chief, who called Martinez a ‘‘mafioso,’’ said he hoped the fired colonel would be extradited. He said he presumed Martinez has been involved with Mejia and his brother Victor, whose drug gang is known as ‘‘The Twins,’’ at least since he transferred to Cesar in May from Arauca, a state bordering Venezuela where the Mejias operate.
    Attempts to speak to Martinez or his lawyer were not immediately successful because police in Cesar state did not respond to AP requests for phone numbers.
    Prior to being named Colombia’s top cop, Naranjo headed the judicial police, which is in charge of investigations and cooperates closely with the DEA.
    Since he was named national police commander by President Alvaro Uribe in May, Naranjo has sacked 70 officers — out of 4,800 nationwide — and 980 patrollmen for corruption and indiscipline, he told The AP.
    Among Colombian security force veterans currently under investigation for drug corruption are an ousted navy admiral and a former head of army intelligence. Meanwhile, 15 soldiers led by a sacked colonel are on trial in the May 22, 2006, massacre of 10 members of an elite U.S.-trained antinarcotics squad.

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