Colombian who hijacked plane two weeks ago freed from jail

A man in a wheelchair who hijacked an airliner two weeks ago was freed from jail Wednesday because of a glitch in Colombia's justice system that has embarrassed the government. A new arrest warrant was expected to be issued.

Deputy Attorney General Jorge Armando Otalora said his office aims to issue a new arrest warrant "in the coming hours" so Porfirio Ramirez could be sent back to jail.

Armed with hand grenades, the 42-year-old Ramirez and his 17-year-old son Linsen hijacked the Aires airliner with 24 people aboard on Sept. 12. They surrendered five hours later at a Bogota airport after releasing all the crew members and passengers unharmed.

A judge released Ramirez on Wednesday due to a "very new system" for indicting suspects that judges in the arraignment phase have been interpreting differently from those in the pretrial phase, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

"The judge ... who freed him made different interpretations of evidence presented by the prosecutor's office," Otalora said without elaborating.

A spokesmsan for the Attorney General's office, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the judge released Ramirez because prosecutors presented insufficient evidence during a hearing to keep Ramirez behind bars.

The judge was not immediately available for comment.

Colombians were stupefied by Ramirez's release.

"Who can explain this decision by the justice system, given that we all watched the hijacking live on television," said Roberto Osorio, a radio listener who called in to a talk show.

The younger Ramirez remains in custody at a home for troubled youths.

Porfirio Ramirez said moments after his arrest that he hijacked the plane because the government recently rejected him compensation for being partially paralyzed by a police bullet during a raid 14 years ago. He said he wanted to take his case to President Alvaro Uribe.

Attorney General Mario Iguaran has said the elder Ramirez faces 25 to 40 years in prison if convicted for aggravated hijacking of an aircraft. He expressed sympathy for the man, but added: "Unfortunately he has to be brought to justice.", AP reported.

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