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Former Venezuelan Drug Official Freed

CHRISTMAS came early for Thor Halvorssen, Venezuela's former ambassador for Narcotics Affairs, who spent 74 days in prison on charges he said were concocted by influential drug traffickers with ``friends'' in the Caracas government.

When Mr. Halvorssen's case came before a superior court judge on Tuesday, he was found innocent of attempted homicide and all other charges tied to a series of bombings in Caracas last summer. A report on this case appeared in the Monitor on Dec. 20.

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Two hours after his release, the United Nations-affiliated International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee.

Halvorssen served as a senior Venezuelan drug official under former President Carlos Andres Perez. He acted as a confidential liaison between law enforcement agencies around the world, working on drug and money-laundering cases. While in prison, he collected evidence on several drug and corruption cases. He says he does not know if he will continue his investigations now.

The bombings for which Halvorssen was arrested have been dubbed ``Yuppie bombings'' because police say they were profit-motivated, designed to capitalize on the stock market fluctuations that followed.

The international community, from Amnesty International to an influential Nicaraguan cardinal to a member of the British Parliament, protested Halvorssen's case. He was reportedly beaten and received several death threats during the time he was in prison.

``This has been a very trying, extraordinarily difficult period,'' a tired Halvorssen said in a phone interview. ``Thank God justice was done.''

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