Colombia court reinstates conviction in Galan hit

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the murder conviction of a former justice minister for masterminding the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, a courageous foe of drug cartels.

The court also reinstated the 24-year prison sentence a lower court imposed in 2007 on Alberto Santofimio, who was widely considered the "political godfather" of the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Hitmen employed by Escobar killed Galan, and a key witness in Santofimio's trial said he saw the defendant urge Escobar to order the murder.

"Kill him, Pablo," testified John Jairo Velasquez, or "Popeye," who was Escobar's chief henchman at the time and has confessed to organizing the assassination.

Santofimio, a senator who had been justice minister in the 1970s, was at the time a rival of Galan for the Liberal Party's presidential nomination.

The Aug. 18, 1989, assassination badly traumatized a nation already reeling from a terror campaign by Escobar's henchmen, who killed hundreds of judges, journalists and police. Escobar also targeted civilians with car bombs, even blowing up an airplane in midflight.

The drug kingpin was trying to pressure Colombia's leaders not to extradite drug lords to the United States. Nonetheless, Galan, the presidential frontrunner when he was killed, promised to battle the narcos with extradition.

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