BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — A 62-year-old lawmaker held captive eight years by leftist rebels walked to freedom Sunday in a western Colombia jungle, along with a young guerrilla commander who had been his jailer.
President Alvaro Uribe said the rebel and his girlfriend would be rewarded with cash and asylum in France.
Oscar Tulio Lizcano is the first Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia hostage to gain freedom since the July 2 rescue of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors.
His escape is another blow to Latin America's last major rebel army, which is battling record desertions under withering pressure from Colombia's U.S.-backed military.
The white-bearded Lizcano encountered a military road checkpoint three days after escaping with the leader of the unit that held him.
He looked haggard in a grimy black shirt and muddy pants during a brief news conference at a military base in the western city of Cali. He apologized for his somewhat incoherent speech, saying his captors had forbidden him to speak. He thanked "the person who had the courage, the valor to leave with me."
"I was really sick," he said, collapsed in a chair beside Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and police and military commanders, who were standing. He said he had eaten little while on the run with his 28-year-old captor, known only by the alias "Isaza."
Lizcano was taken to a clinic, where doctors said he was dehydrated and had signs of malnutrition.
Uribe said "Isaza" would receive a reward -- Santos put it at about $400,000 -- and asylum in France along with his girlfriend.