The Colombian Supreme Court ordered the house arrest of former president (and current senator) Álvaro Uribe Vélez on Tuesday, in a historic event in the South American country. The decision took effect immediately, though the former president has the opportunity to appeal the decision.
The decision was unanimous among the six magistrates of the Supreme Court’s Investigative Chamber who decided the case (the seventh, Cristina Lombana, a military officer during Uribe’s presidency, declared herself impeded from hearing the case). Although Uribe can appeal the decision, this will not alter the decision’s legal effect until and unless the appeal is successful.
The decision concerns accusations that Uribe tried to bribe ex-paramilitary members who are now prisoners, to persuade them to change their testimony against the former president implicating him in the creation and financing of several former paramilitary groups.
The decision was confirmed by ex-president Uribe himself, who, through his social networks, announced the precautionary measure against him.
“The deprivation of my freedom causes me deep sadness for my wife, for my family and for the Colombians who still believe that I have done something good for the Homeland,” Uribe said in this regard.
La privación de mi libertad me causa profunda tristeza por mi señora, por mi familia y por los colombianos que todavía creen que algo bueno he hecho por la Patria
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 4, 2020
The arrest warrant, which may last for a maximum of one year, must be carried out immediately.
Uribe has also been under increased political and legal pressure following revelations made by the magazine Semana in a series of investigative reports including ‘Chuzadas sin cuartel’ (Illegal electronic surveillance without quarter) and ‘Las carpetas secretas’ (The secret archives), which implicated Uribe’s Democratic Centre political party in the illegal surveillance and interception of communications carried out primarily by military intelligence units against government opponents (or suspected opponents) including journalists, human rights defenders, the then Secretary-General of the Presidency, and an adviser to the High Commissioner for Peace. LINK
In a press release, the Democratic Centre party said it was indignant that the Supreme Court put Uribe under house arrest, possibly ending the political career of one of the most powerful politicians in Colombia.
The statement asserted that the bribery charges and accusations Uribe had tried to obstruct justice were “slanderous” and “sustained by false witnesses”. Democratic Centre is already struggling to refute allegations that drug trafficking money financed the presidential campaign of Ivan Duque in 2018, among numerous other major scandals.
The announcement left the political party of former president Uribe and current president Ivan Duque‘s in disarray. One of the party’s members in the Senate, Paloma Valencia, even proposed a comprehensive reform to the judicial system to abolish the units investigating Uribe on fraud and bribery charges, something the party has been unsuccessfully promoting for years.
However, the proposal is less likely than ever to gain support in the national Congress, where the Democratic Centre has a minority (19 of 108 seats in the senate and 32 of 172 in the House of Representatives) and the other major parties are distancing themselves following the party’s heavy defeat in the 2019 regional elections and a series of damaging allegations and investigations.
While the leadership of the coalition Conservative Party stated that they “regretted the situation the former ex-president is in,” they nonetheless expressed support for the Supreme Court.
Radical Change party leader German Vargas, whose party also is in the governing coalition, did not immediately respond to the Supreme Court’s announcement.
Several of Uribe’s main political adversaries, former President Juan Manuel Santos and leftist Senator Gustavo Petro, stated that they expect the court to do its utmost to ensure that Uribe receives a fair trial.
The Supreme Court’s statement justifying the house arrest noted that the magistrates’ decision to proceed with the trial is unanimous and that it is based on solid evidence. LINK
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