A report in the Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo” on 7 September 2004, reveals that the Attorney general’s office has ordered the capture of the three soldiers accused of killing three trade union leaders in Arauca on 5 August 2004.
According to witnesses at the scene of the killings in Cano Seco, Arauca, on 5 August Jorge Eduardo Prieto, Leonel Goyeneche and Hector Alirio were dragged out of the house in which they had been detained and executed in the street by members of the 18th Brigade of the Colombian army. Raquel Castro and Samuel Morales who addressed the Colombia Solidarity Campaign Day School in 2003 were captured in the same operation. They remain in detention.
At the time of the killings, the army claimed that the three men had shot at troops who had been sent to capture them. They claimed to have found guns and explosives in the house where the trade unionists had been meeting. However, officials from the Attorney General’s office have told “El Tiempo” that witness evidence contradicts the army version of events, and that ballistic evidence suggests the three trade union leaders were shot at point blank range in a state of “defencelessness.”
Following the killings, several members of Colombia’s ruling elite claimed that the three murdered men were involved in terrorism and had been killed after opening fire on an army patrol. Francisco Santos, Colombia’s Vice President and responsible for Human Rights in the country claimed at the time that the three were members of the ELN guerrilla.