Dutch citizen Tanja Nijmeijer has officially been charged with terrorism by the authorities in the United States. She is accused of involvement in the case of three US citizens who were held hostage by Colombia’s FARC rebel group. If 32-year-old Ms Nijmeijer is found guilty, she faces up to 60 years in prison.
In 2003, the three Americans were taking part in aerial surveillance of southern Colombia as part of anti-drugs operations. Their plane got into difficulties and crashed in a region controlled by the FARC rebels. Five of those on board survived the accident. The rebels shot dead the US pilot and a Colombian soldier and took the other three - Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes – hostage.
In July 2008, Mr Gonsalves and his colleagues were freed by Colombian government troops after more than five years in captivity. Another hostage, the Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, was released in the same operation.
A US Justice ministry press release says Tanja Nijmeijer and 17 other FARC rebels have been indicted on charges of involvement in the hostage taking. The American hostages are said to have been held under barbaric conditions.
Tanja Nijmeijer is mentioned in the book, Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle, which was published last year by the three former hostages. She interpreted from English to Spanish when they were interrogated by the rebels. Mr Gonsalves hasn’t got a good word to say about the FARC.
“We’ve seen the most cruel side of humanity... with the FARC... The FARC are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists. Terrorists with a capital ‘T’...”
Tanja Nijmeijer is specifically mentioned in the title of the Washington press release: Dutch Woman and 17 Other Members of FARC Terrorist Organization Indicted on Hostage-taking and Weapons Charges. The document goes into details about her career as a student in Groningen who went on to join the rebels in the Colombian jungle.
A grand jury in the US capital has decided there is enough evidence for her to stand trial. Seven charges against her have been drawn up in connection with the “brutal act of terrorism”, as U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen calls the holding hostage of the three Americans.
Ms Nijmeijer is not accused of being involved in the shooting of the US pilot. Others among the 18 mentioned in the indictment are. The US charges will make it even more difficult for the Dutch woman to leave the rebels in the Colombian jungle. The US will seek her extradition if she surfaces in Colombia or anywhere else in the world.
A recent documentary broadcast by Radio Netherlands Worldwide shows Tanja Nijmeijer with the three American hostages.