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Federal judge allows suit against Chiquita for Colombia killings to proceed

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit [case materials] that accuses Chiquita Brands International Inc. [corporate website] of assisting Marxist rebels who killed Colombian missionaries may go forward. The suit was brought [Palm Beach Post report] by family members of five North American missionaries who had worked for the New Tribes Mission (NTM) [mission website] in South America and were killed in separate incidents between 1995 and 1996. Judge Kenneth Marra held that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that Chiquita provided funding to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which resulted in the deaths of the missionaries. Chiquita admitted it had paid FARC for protection of its workers but it argued that it did not condone the killings. Marra rejected this defense, saying the allegations raised the inference of a conspiracy between Chiquita and FARC.

The suit was originally filed in March 2008, and was the first of its kind [Bloomberg report] brought under a 1992 law that allows US citizens to sue for terrorist acts committed by US firms abroad. In 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million after it admitted to making payments of around $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004 to FARC and another terrorist group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Colombia. Following that admission, hundreds of family members of Colombians killed by FARC filed lawsuits in the US against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [text]. In January, Chiquita settled [Bloomberg report] a shareholder lawsuit over the illegal payments.

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