Israelis Linked to Drug Hit Squads Reportedly to Face Lesser Charge

From Associated Press

Police are expected to recommend that six Israeli army reserve officers accused of training Colombian gunmen be tried on charges of illegally exporting military expertise, a senior police official said Wednesday.

The official also confirmed front-page reports carried by three major Israeli dailies saying that investigators have found no evidence to support suspicions that the officers trained assassins for drug lords in Colombia. The six Israelis have said they were training farmers to defend themselves against leftist rebels.

News of the army officers' alleged involvement caused a public uproar, partly out of embarrassment over allegations of their links with the Medellin drug cartel and its assassinations in Colombia.

Trying the officers would be an unusual crackdown by the defense establishment on Israelis involved in overseas weapons deals.

The investigation of the six Israelis began Aug. 27 after a U.S television network showed a tape of a uniformed man speaking Hebrew during a training session of supposed drug assassins.

Israeli reports said Colombian police have failed to give the Israelis any evidence of narcotics-related crimes. The investigators have questioned the suspects about their involvement and questioned defense officials on licensing regulations. Their information indicates that the suspects violated Israeli law by failing to obtain a license before holding military training courses overseas, the police officer said. The charge carries a maximum punishment of seven years' imprisonment.

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