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Chiquita asks court to toss terror payments case

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chiquitaMIAMI — Produce giant Chiquita Brands International says the U.S. is the wrong place for lawsuits to be pursued against it by thousands of Colombians whose relatives were killed in a bloody civil war.

A Chiquita attorney asked an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel to dismiss the lawsuits at a Thursday hearing. A ruling is unlikely for months.

Chiquita once had huge banana operations in Colombia and paid $1.7 million to a right-wing paramilitary group responsible for the deaths. Chiquita says Colombia is the proper lawsuit forum.

Lawyers for the Colombians say the cases belong in U.S. courts because Chiquita is headquartered in the U.S. and made decisions here about the payments.

Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to U.S. criminal charges over the payments and paid a $25 million fine.

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