Colombia paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso released by Bogota court

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - A court in Colombia granted conditional release to former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, his defense team confirmed on Saturday.

Mancuso, a former top commander of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), was sent back to Colombia from the United States in February after serving a drug trafficking sentence there.

The AUC was the main paramilitary organization during Colombia's six-decade internal conflict, which left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

Mancuso's defense lawyers confirmed the ruling by Bogota's high court for his release and shared a copy of the decision, which was dated May 10 and seen by Reuters.

Mancuso, who is accused in Colombia of war crimes and human rights violations, was being held in preventive detention in La Picota prison on the outskirts of the capital since his return to Colombia.

Far-right paramilitary units surged in the 1980s with support from farmers, land owners and others who sought to defend themselves from attacks by leftist guerrillas amid state absence. The groups became involved in drug trafficking, massacres and sexual violence, among other crimes.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Oliver Griffin; editing by Diane Craft)