A lawsuit against fruit company Chiquita over payments it made to right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia will go to U.S. federal courts.
The 4,000 plaintiffs are relatives of Colombian victims of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC). They allege that Chiquita funded death squads that tortured or killed their family members.
The fruit multinational has admitted making payments to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004, and was fined $25 million in 2007. However, the company denies the charge that it is responsible for murders committed by the AUC, claiming that it was forced to hand over protection money.
A Miami judge rejected Chiquita's attempt to have the case thrown out.
Reuters reported that the case will now turn on how much Chiquita knew about the AUC. Lawyers for the company said it would be difficult for the plaintiffs to show that Chiquita intended for the paramiltiaries to torture and kill.