Two Americans Facing Extradition Begin Hunger Strike
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ Two of four Americans jailed and facing extradition to Argentina have begun a hunger strike, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday.
Embassy spokesman Bill Barr said the Americans began fasting ″a couple of days ago″ to protest tightened security after four colleagues escaped from the Brasilia jail in mid-December.
The two, John Dee Early of Illinois, and Julio Raul Rodriguez-Larrazabal of Fayetteville, N.C., were among eight Americans arrested in a southeastern port last March and charged with trying to smuggle arms into Brazil.
″They were protesting increased prison security after their four colleagues fled jail. I believe some privileges were taken away,″ Barr said without elaborating.
He said they seemed in good health.
″If there were any danger to their health, federal police would make sure they received the proper attention,″ Barr told The Associated Press.
The two Americans jailed but not fasting were Robert Edward Foti, of Scotia, N.Y., and Steven Villa Sosa of Fayetteville, N.C.
Four companions escaped the Brasilia jail on Dec. 15, apparently by sawing through their cell bars and dropping from the roof using knotted sheets. The four who escaped were Timothy Carmody of San Francisco; Sheldon Ainsworth of Virginia Beach, Va.; Fred Verduin of Sonoma, Calif.; and Steven Warren Hedrick of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Americans entered Brazil from Argentina aboard a sea-going tug loaded with six-tons of weapons, including machine guns, 9mm submachine guns, grenades and ammunition.
Police seized the cargo and the tug and arrested the Americans, along with the vessel’s Argentine captain, Eduardo Gilardoni, who was later freed.
The group claimed the arms shipment was legal and destined for government forces in Ghana, west Africa. Gilardoni told police he tried to abort the mission after learning at sea the purchaser did not represent the Ghanaian government.
In June, the nine defendents were convicted of arms smuggling and sentenced to jail terms of four to five years. Four months later a federal appeals court overturned the decision on grounds of insufficient evidence.
However, the Americans remain in jail awaiting extradition to Argentina, which claims they violated export laws in buying rubber rafts and motors, part of the seized shipment. Brazil’s Supreme Court unanimously approved the extradition request shortly before the four escaped.