The investigation chamber of the Supreme Court of Colombia has decided to send the prosecution of witness tampering against former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) to the Attorney General, as requested by the defense of the politician since he resigned two weeks ago from his seat in the Senate. The ex-president, mentor of President Iván Duque and undisputed leader of the Democratic Center, the ruling party, is under house arrest for the case.
“Because it is an investigation unrelated to his position as a congressman, on conduct as an alleged determiner of the crimes of bribery of witnesses in criminal proceedings and procedural fraud, the Supreme Court of Justice will leave the detained former senator at the disposal of the Attorney General of the Nation Álvaro Uribe Vélez, ”the high court officially reported this Tuesday in a statement. “As of today, the procedure for delivering the file begins,” the communication concludes. The decision was unanimous, and was taken the day before, in a hectic day in which it transpired that the prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa, met with magistrates of the Court.
Uribe has a long history of confrontations with the high courts, dating back to his two terms in the Casa de Nariño. The resignation of his position as senator, on August 18, unleashed an intense legal and political debate, with different interpretations, about the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which is in charge of judging congressmen. The former president alleges that the court has violated his procedural guarantees, while his detractors denounce the delaying maneuvers of his defense lawyers.
Senator Iván Cepeda, considered a victim in the complex witness manipulation process in which Uribe is accused, had argued that the Court should maintain its jurisdiction, since the former president, in his capacity as senator, used members of his unit of Legislative work to contact paramilitaries imprisoned in the country’s prisons in order to convince them to testify against them. At the time, Uribe himself, when he resigned from the Senate for the first time, although he later retracted, maintained that “the accusation of witnesses that they make to me is based on facts carried out at the time I am serving as senator, which maintains the jurisdiction of the Court ”.
However, the Attorney General’s Office issued a statement last week stating that the case should go to the Prosecutor’s Office, as alleged by the defense. “We asked the investigation room to send the file of former President Uribe to the Prosecutor’s Office for absolutely legal reasons. Due to the strength of various rulings of the Supreme Court itself that explain very clearly that when a senator loses his jurisdiction, that process simply has to go to the Prosecutor’s Office unless a functional relationship with the crimes is proven, “he explained to EL PAÍS the attorney Fernando Carrillo.
The process against the former president now goes to the Prosecutor’s Office, headed by Francisco Barbosa, a close friend of President Duque since they studied together at the university. The investigating body will be in charge of defining whether to finally accuse Uribe before a judge, who has been in prison since August 12 at his El Uberrimo farm, in the north of the country, and will remain in detention for the moment. domiciliary.
Duque himself has given himself to the defense of the ex-president’s “honorableness” and has argued that he should be tried in freedom, in repeated pronouncements that various sectors have interpreted as disrespect for the separation of powers. As soon as the meaning of the investigation chamber’s decision began to be known, Senator Cepeda announced that, although he complies with that determination, he intends to challenge the prosecutor Barbosa to withdraw from the investigations due to the lack of guarantees of impartiality.
Uribe faces more than a dozen investigations in the Colombian justice system. The witness manipulation process, which is the process that has advanced the most, dates back to 2012, when the former president filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against Cepeda, a congressman from the opposition Polo Democrático, accusing him of organizing a plot against him with false witnesses. in Colombian prisons to link him to paramilitary groups. The case took a sharp turn in 2018, when the high court acquitted Cepeda and asked to investigate Uribe on the suspicion that it was he and his lawyers who manipulated witnesses to recant and accuse Cepeda. In the original complaint, a former paramilitary states that a group of self-defense groups was created on a former Uribe family property.
Suspicions from the United States
In the midst of the judicial storm, it was also known that a high-level official of the United States Department of Defense had a strong suspicion that Uribe, when he was president of Colombia, had a history of dealing with paramilitaries, according to a declassified report that the agency published this Monday The Associated Press. More specifically, with the dismantled United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
“Almost certainly, Uribe had dealings with the paramilitaries (AUC) when he was governor of Antioquia,” Peter Rodman, who served as a senior Pentagon official, wrote in a 2004 confidential dispatch to Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009). “It goes with the position,” he maintained in the messages.
The documents do not include any specific description of direct interactions between the former president and the paramilitaries, and there is little to show whether the United States attempted to determine whether and at what levels that relationship actually existed. AP. The AUC was declared by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization in 2001.