Chiquita case moves forward

June 6, 2011 at 9:59 AM
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MIAMI, June 6 (UPI) -- EarthRights International praised a decision by a Florida judge to allow a lawsuit charging banana company Chiquita with funding terrorists to move forward.

A Florida judge ruled a case pitting Colombian families against banana company Chiquita Brands International can move forward to federal courts. Family members blame Chiquita for allegedly funding known terrorist organizations in Colombia.

The company in 2007 pleaded guilty and paid $25 million in fines for paying off the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC. Colombians alleged the banana company was funding AUC's death squads.

"The court agreed that Chiquita's alleged actions, in providing financing and arms to brutal death squads, violated international human rights law under the federal Alien Tort Statute, and may constitute crimes against humanity," said Marco Simons, legal director of EarthRights International, counsel for the plaintiffs.

Chiquita in a statement didn't deny it paid money to AUC but said there was a difference between paying off rebels and advocating their activity.

"To be clear, there is no allegation that Chiquita itself committed any of the crimes perpetrated by the Colombian terrorist groups," the company said in a statement. "The only allegation is that Chiquita should be held responsible for these crimes by virtue of the money that it was forced to pay."

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