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Chiquita settles suits with families of slain missionaries, geologist

...[B]anana giant Chiquita Brands International...settled lawsuits accusing it of being responsible for the decades-old deaths of five Central Florida missionaries and an Alabama geologist...[B]oth sides announced they had reached a confidential settlement...In the lawsuits filed in 2008, Rasco and other attorneys accused the company of violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act by funding a Colombian rebel group that is blamed for the deaths of thousands in the war-torn country, including the missionaries and the geologist.  The act allows U.S. citizens to sue if they or their loved ones are victims of international terrorism...U.S. District Kenneth Marra paved the way for...trial by rejecting Chiquita’s claims that it was under duress when it paid roughly $220,000 to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia...Three of the missionaries...in 1993 were kidnapped...and held for $5 million ransom...[A] year later, two other New Tribes missionaries were kidnapped.  Years passed before the families learned the men had been killed.  Colombian prosecutors blamed the deaths on FARC guerrillas.  Frank Pescatore Jr. was part-owner of an...oil and gas exploration company when he was kidnapped in 1996...[H]e was fatally shot in 1997...The company also faces scores of similar lawsuits filed by the families of slain Colombian nationals...Chiquita is accused of violating the federal Alien Tort Act.  While filed in courthouses throughout the nation, the lawsuits were consolidated...so the similar accusations could be considered by one judge.

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