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Colombia28 February 2004

Radio Nova contributor is free

A stringer for the French station Radio Nova, Julien Fouchet, has been released by a paramilitary group that was holding him, a French diplomatic source said in Bogotá on 27 February. French embassy spokesman Frank Técourt said that Fouchet, who disappeared in the Sierra Nevada on 15 January 2004, had been held by a paramilitary group that wanted "to determine exactly what he was doing there". Fouchet, a student of law in the Colombian capital, was in good health, he added.

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the fate of Julien Fouchet, 27, a French law student in Bogota and freelance contributor to Radio Nova, whose disappearance in northern Colombia more than a month ago was officially confirmed by the French embassy in Bogota yesterday.

The organisation urged the Colombian authorities to do everything possible to find him.

There has been no word of Fouchet since he went missing in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on 15 January. Located near the Caribbean coast 1,000 km north of the capital, this mountain range boasts indigenous archeological sites but is also the refuge of armed groups and drug traffickers.

Agence France-Presse said Fouchet wanted to make contact with the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the Sierra Nevada. About 80 journalists have been kidnapped or detained by Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the ELN and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), since 1997. It was the ELN that kidnapped two journalists - one American and one British - in January 2003.

Fouchet’s parents have gone to Colombia to seek more information about the circumstances of his disappearance.

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