Colombia’s Supreme Court orders immediate release of recaptured FARC leader

The US claims that the FARC's long-time ideologue "Jesus Santrich" sought to export 10 tons of cocaine after the 2016 peace deal. (Screenshot: YouTube)

Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of former rebel leader “Jesus Santrich” on Wednesday after removing the prosecution from the investigation into a vague US drug trafficking charge.

The Supreme Court assumed full control of the investigation after the State Council confirmed that Santrich is a member of Congress and as such can only be investigated by the top court.

According to FARC Senator “Pablo Catatumbo,” acting Prosecutor General Fabio Espitia guaranteed that his former fellow-guerrilla chief will be released on Thursday.

The chief prosecutor has given us guarantees that he will respect the court order and that the only thing that is missing is a protocol requesting international agencies to verify if there is no arrest warrant against Santrich.

FARC Senator “Pablo Catatumbo”

Santrich is shielded from extradition as part of Colombia’s peace process that allowed the former guerrilla group to become a political party in 2017 after laying down its weapons.

Duque rejects court decision

The decision was rejected by President Ivan Duque, who insisted at an event in the capital Bogota that “Santrich is a mafioso.”

The FARC chose Santrich to become the former guerrillas’ leader in the House of Representatives in August 2017 after laying down their weapons as part of a peace process.

Because Santrich is taking part in the peace process he can be neither jailed nor extradited unless found guilty of committing crimes after the FARC signed peace with the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos in November 2016.

The unanimous ruling comes exactly two weeks after the war crimes tribunal also ordered the release of the FARC leader on claims it had seen no evidence to determine whether or when Santrich would have conspired to traffic drugs as claimed by the US Department of Justice.

US ‘regrets’ Colombia’s refusal to extradite FARC leader, ignores court order to investigate DEA

Santrich’s non-fiction judicial thriller

Santrich was controversially recaptured by prosecution officials two days later while prison authorities delayed obeying the court order for two days and US authorities scrambled to send evidence.

The FARC leader is currently held in a cell in the main office of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Bogota to await trial before a lower court.

The Supreme Court’s intervention is the latest plot twist in a non-fiction judicial thriller that has resulted in investigation orders into the prosecution, prison authorities and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over alleged misconduct.

Santrich was arrested in April last year after US authorities filed an extradition request on claims that the virtually blind FARC leader conspired to traffic drugs.

The US Department of Justice, however, refused to surrender evidence. Audio released by the Prosecutor General’s Office indicated that the FARC leader was deceived by a DEA informant.

Santrich and the FARC have consistently claimed that the former guerrillas’ long-time ideologue was “framed” by the DEA and former Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who resigned when the Special Jurisdiction for Peace ordered an investigation into his alleged misconduct.

Did a DEA hoax devastate Colombia’s peace process?

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