URGENT Kidnappers surrender, free judge unharmed
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ Judge Enrique Echeverria, kidnapped last week by leftist guerrillas, was freed unharmed Sunday night after the rebels surrendered in exchange for the promise of a fair trial, officials reported.
The 10 kidnappers, including two women, were taken from the house in Calderon and placed aboard a bus to be transferred to a military barracks.
Echeverria, 60, was kidnapped Tuesday night and taken to the house in Calderon, 12 miles north of Quito. Police found the house Friday, and negotiations with the kidnappers began after security units surrounded the building.
The government and the 10-member Court for Constitutional Guarantees offered the kidnappers a fair trial and imprisonment under the supervision of a mediating commission. Echeverria is a member of the consitutional court.
The kidnappers belonged to the Montoneras Patria Libre - Guerrillas for a Free Homeland - and initially accused President Leon Febres Cordero of violating the constitution and demanded that he be tried by the court.
But after their hideout was surrounded by soldiers and police, they asked for safe passage and a plane to fly them to another country, which was not identified.
Earlier Sunday, newspapers reported that Febres Cordero’s wife, Eugenia, met with the kidnappers and appealed to them to surrender.
They said she went Saturday night with Interior Minister Luis Robles to the house in Calderon and spoke briefly with him and the rebels.
Police said they learned of the kidnappers’ hideout in Calderon from a gang member seized Thursday night in Quito where he was planning to deliver another rebel communique.
Witnesses said the guerrillas abducted the judge after using their van to block his car.
Echeverria’s wife, Teresa, appealed in a news conference that ″God will light the way of President Leon Febres Cordero and the people who are mediating the problem, so that this will have a happy ending.″
Last September, a banker and four rebels who had kidnapped him were killed when Febres Cordero ordered security troops to storm a house where they were holed up.
Febres Cordero on Saturday accused his opponents of carrying out the kidnapping to embarrass his conservative political coalition in the June 1 congressional and municipal elections.