Activist’s husband
wants U.S. trial for
Colombian suspects

By Gary T. Kubota

The common-law husband of a Hawaii woman killed in Colombia in 1999 said recently that arrested suspects should stand trial in the United States.

"Who knows what kind of justice could be gotten down there?" said John Livingstone. "It's frustrating."

Livingstone, who lived on the Big Island for many years with Hawaiian activist Lahe'ena'e Gay, said stories have circulated about the reason for the murders of Gay and two other Americans, but none has been proved.

"I'd like to know the answers," he said.

Three members of the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia were arrested Thursday in Colombia as suspects in the killing of Gay, 41; Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, of New York; and Terence Freitas, 24, of Oakland, Calif.

A fourth male suspect, arrested in 2000 on a separate charge, also is being held by Colombian authorities. The four were indicted earlier this year by a Washington, D.C., grand jury in the slayings.

The three Americans were kidnapped on Feb. 25, 1999, while on a mission in Colombia at the invitation of the U'wa tribe.

A farmer living near the Colombian border near Venezuela heard gunshots in a field on March 5 and found the bodies of the three.

Livingstone criticized a published report last week that said the three Americans were in Colombia to protest the drilling of oil by Occidental Petroleum.

He said that Freitas was accompanying Gay and Washinawatok to see how they might help to establish a school that would be culturally sensitive to the U'wa.

Livingstone said the U'wa tribe had rejected the model of the national education system in Colombia and was interested in implementing a system proposed by Gay.

U.S. State Department official Robert Zimmerman said the department was happy about the arrest of some of the suspects.

"We are pleased that the Colombian national police have apprehended the individuals allegedly involved in the calculated murder of American citizens who were working for indigenous rights in Colombia," said Zimmerman, deputy public affairs adviser for the western hemisphere. "We support all actions that will ensure justice will be done."

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias has admitted responsibility in the killings but refused to turn over those involved.

Zimmerman said the rebel group's refusal to cooperate shows that the group has no respect for human rights.

Gay, a professional photographer who had her works exhibited at the Bishop Museum, founded the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International on the Big Island as a way to preserve native cultures worldwide.

Washinawatok's husband, Ali El-Issa, said he also supported extradition because he believes there is a better chance for justice in the United States.

Washinawatok, an American Indian, worked on behalf of indigenous people and was the chairwoman of the United Nation's forum, Decade of Indigenous People.

"We have to remember there were three innocent Americans killed overseas," El-Issa said.

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