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  • The ex-president is accused of links with paramilitary groups and drug traffickers.

    The ex-president is accused of links with paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 October 2019

Uribe, a mentor of President Ivan Duque, could serve time in jail if finally convicted in the case. 

Former far-right Colombian President and Senator Alvaro Uribe went Tuesday before the Supreme Court of Justice as part of the process opened against him for alleged procedural fraud and bribery of witnesses.

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The Supreme Court opened the investigation in July 2018 after ex-paramilitary Juan Guillermo Monsalve assured that Diego Cadena, the lawyer of the ex-president, pressured him to retract his statements in which he had accused Uribe to be related to paramilitary groups.

The process had already started on Sept. 17, 2014, with a debate launched against Uribe in Congress by leftist Ivan Cepeda, then lawmaker in the House of Representatives. Cepeda accused the ex-president of links with paramilitary groups and drug traffickers, presenting different types of evidence to support his charges, including testimonials from ex-paramilitaries.

Uribe had responded it was defamation and accused Cepeda before the Supreme Court to have searched for ex-paramilitaries in prisons, using them as false witnesses, in order to testify against him.

However, in February 2018 the Court not only archived the case against Cepeda but opened an investigation to the ex-president for alleged manipulation of witnesses, as he may have sent agents to persuade the witnesses to take their testimonies back.

Among the witnesses are paramilitary prisoners, lawyers, politicians, two former prosecutors, and a journalist. Some of them support the charges made against Uribe, saying that through his lawyers, he offered privileges and benefits to former paramilitaries to testify in his favor or his relatives in suits against them for supporting paramilitarism and participating in massacres.

Other witnesses defend Uribe and say all the accusations against him are part of a plot promoted by his political adversaries, especially Cepeda.

One of the key witnesses is Monsalve, the son of the butler of the hacienda that belonged to the Uribe family. Monsalve says that the hacienda was the headquarters of the United Self-Defenders of Colombia (AUC), a Colombian right-wing paramilitary and drug trafficking group, who planned its massacres from there. Monsalve said that Cadena, Uribe's lawyer, offered him benefits to retract his accusations against the ex-president.

Uribe’s defense claims that it was Monsalve who sought the lawyers of the former president to retract the statements he had given to Cepeda.

To initiate criminal proceedings against Uribe, the Supreme Court also relied on telephone interceptions that, due to an alleged error still unexplained, were made to the former president's cell phone.

There are more than 200 hours of audio implicating Uribe in alleged witness manipulation. The hearings are expected to last days.

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