Colombia’s ambassador asks US judge to release convicted former minister awaiting extradition

Ivan Duque (L) and Francisco Santos. (Image: President's Office)

Colombia’s ambassador to Washington came under fire again on Wednesday for asking a US judge to release a political ally who is in jail awaiting extradition.

The Florida judge denied the request of former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias to be released from jail on bail to spend Christmas with his family.

Arias is wanted in Colombia to serve a 17-year prison sentence for his role in a $25 million embezzlement scandal, but is defended by his former boss, former President Alvaro Uribe, and his allies, like Colombia’s ambassador to Washington DC and Uribe’s former VP, Francisco Santos.

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Despite fleeing his country in an attempt to evade justice, “Arias does not represent a flight risk and, based only on humanitarian grounds, his liberation would have a great impact on his family and children,” according to Santos, the hard-line cousin of former President Juan Manuel Santos.

Arias has appealed his extradition and has unsuccessfully sought to be released from his Florida jail on multiple occasions.

Santos’ actions in the name of the Colombian government goes directly against a request of the Supreme Court that had asked Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo to reiterate the extradition request.

The Government of Colombia requests the consideration of Mr. Arias’ release on bail while his appeal is pending in this case. he does not pose a flight risk and, thus, his incarceration is unnecessary.

Colombian ambassador Francisco Santos

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently ruled in favor of the former minister’s claim that his right to due process was violated because he was tried before the Supreme Court without being allowed an appeal.

Colombia’s Supreme Court introduced an appeals chamber earlier this year to allow politicians who are convicted for crimes to appeal verdicts or sentences. This decision would not revoke the conviction of Arias, or any convicted politician, but could help the minister and other fugitive politicians to evade extradition from the US.

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