A US human rights group believes Coca-Cola Co should be held responsible for the murder of a worker at one of the company's bottling plants in Columbia. The International Labor Rights Fund made the charge yesterday in an amended lawsuit it has filed in a Miami court.

The lawsuit, filed by relatives of the murdered employee and a group linked to the SINALTRAINAL union in Columbia, accuses Coke and its bottlers of hiring paramilitary death squads to intimidate union activists at bottling plants in the country.

Isidro Gil was shot dead at a Coke bottling facility in 1996. SINALTRAINAL claims that at least six union activists who worked at Coke bottling plants in Columbia have been murdered since 1989.

Although Coca-Cola was dismissed from the lawsuit by a judge last year, the amended complaint said the company should be included following Coca-Cola FEMSA's acquisition of Panamerican Beverages, the operator of Coke's Columbian bottling plants, last year. Coke holds a 40% stake in Coca-Cola FEMSA, the soft drinks division of Mexican Bottler and brewer Femsa.

Coka has consistently denied any involvement in the abuse, and said it believed that its bottlers were not involved in any atrocities in the company.