Álvaro Uribe faces accusation and is close to being the first former president in a trial in Colombia

Álvaro Uribe faces accusation and is close to being the first former president in a trial in Colombia
Álvaro Uribe faces accusation and is close to being the first former president in a trial in Colombia

BOGOTÁ (AP) — The influential former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez is getting closer to becoming the first former president of the Andean country to face a criminal trial. He is summoned on Friday to a hearing in which the prosecution is expected to formally accuse him of the crimes of procedural fraud and bribing witnesses.

Uribe, who governed Colombia between 2002 and 2010, faces criminal proceedings after denouncing more than a decade ago that an opposition senator was looking for paramilitaries to testify against him and link him to the creation of a paramilitary group.

However, in a boomerang effect, Uribe ended up being investigated for allegedly pressuring through third parties for some witnesses to retract their accusations in exchange for supposed benefits.

For the crimes of which the prosecution accuses him, the former president faces a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

The former president has previously denied links with paramilitary groups.

Uribe was detained at his residence for this case from August to October 2020 by order of the Supreme Court. However, he then resigned his seat as senator and a judge ordered his release.

Since then, the prosecution has twice requested its closure, alleging that the former president was totally unaware of the allegedly illicit efforts made by third parties. In both requests, the judges kept the process open considering that it is possible that Uribe had intervened in the events.

In April, after the renewal of the head of the Attorney General’s Office, with the appointment of Luz Adriana Camargo from a shortlist proposed by the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, the prosecutor’s office changed its position: it gave up asking for the closure of the case and called Uribe on trial.

Uribe alleged in response to that decision that the prosecution acted “out of political revenge” considering that there is no evidence that allows inferring that he sought to bribe witnesses or deceive justice.

The prosecution is expected to formally accuse Uribe Vélez through a document in which it states the evidence it has. Then, the judge may assign a date for the preparatory hearings in which the evidence will begin to be presented, which will then begin the trial stage.

The beginning of Uribe Vélez’s process dates back to 2012 when he denounced left-wing congressman Iván Cepeda, his political opponent, before the Supreme Court of Justice for allegedly searching prisons for paramilitary testimonies so that they could testify against the former president and link him to the creation of a paramilitary group.

However, in 2018, the same Court, in charge of investigating the congressmen, closed the complaint against Cepeda after finding no merits and ordered, instead, to open an investigation against the then senator Uribe Vélez to determine if he had been the one who allegedly attempted tampering with witnesses against Cepeda.

“It is without a doubt a transcendental fact, the first time that a person who has served as head of the Colombian State has to appear before justice,” Cepeda, who is listed as a victim in the criminal process, told The Associated Press.

Cepeda hopes for “speed” in the procedures so that “very soon the country can know a sentence on what has been this episode that has already lasted more than a decade in which I have been a victim.”

 
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