A federal magistrate says a former mercenary should be jailed for refusing to cooperate in a $24 million lawsuit against an alleged guns-for-drugs smuggling conspiracy to aid the Contras.

Sam Hall refused to answer questions or turn over documents Wednesday in the civil case filed against U.S. government officials, Contra leaders and Medellin Cartel drug traffickers by two journalists and the liberal Christic Institute."It has to do with principle," Hall told U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff. "My past would have been in vain."

But the magistrate said Hall's position had no legal basis and ordered him held in civil contempt until he answered the questions during depositions. Turnoff said he would make his recommendation to the presiding judge in the case, Chief U.S. District Judge James L. King, who is on vacation until next week.

"I'm prepared to go to jail as long as the case takes," Hall said.