Israeli Officer Charged in Arms Deal in Colombia

From Associated Press

A court on Thursday charged a high-ranking reserve officer and a company he heads with illegally providing military expertise and equipment to a group of civilians in Colombia.

The defendant, Lt. Col. Yair Klein, is also wanted in that Colombia for allegedly helping to train fighters for cocaine cartels.

The case involving Klein and his Hod Hahanit (Spearhead) company has prompted wide debate in Israel over the practice of retired military officers working as mercenaries overseas.

Klein's company is defined in the charges as an organization that trains and builds counterterrorist fighting squads.

The four-page charge sheet makes no mention of the Colombian charges that Klein was involved in training assassination teams for the Medellin drug cartel. Klein has vigorously denied such allegations.

The charge sheet accuses Klein of making an illegal deal with a group known as the Farmers' Organization in Colombia around April, 1988.

The illegal-export charges by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court do not give details on the farmers' group. Klein maintained earlier that he had legally provided training to a group of Colombian cattlemen.

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