- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2011

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (AP) - Cases against at least 15 people suspected of aiding a guerrilla group are unraveling after Colombia’s Supreme Court dismissed key evidence seized during a 2008 raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador, Colombia’s chief anti-terrorism prosecutor said Thursday.

Prosecutors had based much of their investigations on files and emails found in computers allegedly belonging to a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Raul Reyes, who was slain in the March 1, 2008, Colombian military raid.

That evidence had supposedly implicated prominent figures such as well-known Colombian journalist William Parra and Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who was expelled from the country’s Congress because of her alleged ties to the rebel group, known by its Spanish initials, FARC.

On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court ruled that similar evidence used to investigate ex-legislator Wilson Borja for links to the FARC was inadmissible because it was recovered outside Colombia in Ecuador and without Ecuador’s approval.

Prosecutor Hermes Ardila said cases using the computer files “are almost collapsing because if we only have as evidence the information found in the computers, with the court’s decision, this evidence is no longer valid.”

Prosecutors are analyzing pending prosecutions of 15 people using the files to determine which will be abandoned and which have enough additional evidence to keep them open, Ardila said.

Colombia’s cross-border raid on the FARC camp had raised tensions between U.S. ally Colombia and the leftist governments in neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela and prompted a regional summit to defuse the conflict.

In the days following the raid, Colombian authorities asked the international police agency Interpol to conduct a forensic examination of three laptops, two external hard disks and three USB thumb drives seized at the camp. In the resulting report, Interpol said it “found no evidence that user files were created, modified or deleted on any of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits following their seizure.”

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