BOGOTA : For 17 years it was a privilege reserved only for high-ranking Colombian police officers. But the State Council, the highest administrative court in Colombia, has now thrown out a controversial rule that forbade rank-and-file policemen from growing mustaches, it emerged Wednesday. "We felt that the rule really undermined personal expression and equality," Maria Claudia Rojas Lasso, president of the council, told reporters.

"People are equal before the law and should receive the same treatment from the authorities." The decision was adopted on Sunday following a petition filed by a police officer. The Colombian National Police currently has approximately 180,000 personnel.