Lieutenant-Colonel (Res) Yair Klein, who was jailed in Russia for allegedly aiding a terror organization in Colombia, landed Saturday in Israel – three years after being arrested in Russia.
Klein was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Colombia court for advising a local terror organization under the command of drug lords in the city of Medellin in the 1980s and '90s.
He was arrested in Russia three years ago on an international warrant, but a European court refused to extradite him to Colombia, citing reports of other cases in which those extradited were apparently tortured. Moscow then appealed this decision.
'Happy it's all over.' Klein and Bar at airport (photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Since his arrest, Klein's family has fought extradition on the grounds that it would mean certain death. On October 19 their efforts proved successful, as the court rejected Moscow's appeal.
Klein arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport around midnight on Saturday, and was greeted by his friends, relatives and girlfriend – whom he has not seen since his arrest.
The newly freed man commented on the international warrant that led to his arrest, calling it "complete nonsense." Klein said he plans to devote his time to writing two books. When asked what he missed most of all while behind bars, he immediately replied 'women."
Klein expressed his dissatisfaction with the government and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who served as the foreign minister during his incarceration.
When asked for his opinion on how the government handled his case, Klein replied: "Your government, not mine," claiming that his release was partly because of the press.
Klein's girlfriend, Michal Bar, was one of the leaders in the campaign against Klein's extradition, for which many of his friends and relatives said the state had done nothing.
Upon his return, Bar said "I'm happy it is all over, and he is finally back," adding that family and friends were expecting him at home. "It is not only my joy," she said.
With the news of his release, Colombian officials said they do not intend to give up easily.
Colombian Justice Minister Vargas Lleras said the government will "not to sit idle," adding that authorities were "examining alternatives in order to enforce the verdict. The international community, including Russia and Israel, need to ask themselves how such things are allowed to happen."
Dmitry Prokofyev contributed to this report