A Bogota judge ruled that 13 activists, accused of involvement in several bombings in Colombia’s capital, must await trial in jail while the public prosecutor continues its investigation.
“The prosecution is pursuing an investigation into the events of July 2, 2015 at Porvenir and cannot rule out that these people can be linked to these facts,” Juan Hernando Poveda, director of the National Counterterrorism Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office argued in court yesterday.
The judge agreed with the prosecution that the suspects are a “danger to society” and must remain in custody pending trial, local media reported.
The prosecutor had previously claimed the suspects would be a flight risk if released.
Colombian police arrested 15 people on July 8 in connection with the bombings that struck the capital – an attack that President Juan Manuel Santos said was carried out by National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.
Two bombs exploded in Bogota on July 2, one inside a Porvenir pension fund office in the city’s financial district, and a second outside another office of the same company in the city’s northwest. Ten people were wounded in the attacks, one seriously.
The suspects were rounded up in simultaneous raids six days later by 250 National Police officers, in coordination with agents from the Prosecutor’s Office.
Two of the 15 people detained were later released amid accusations the authorities were arbitrarily arresting leftist activists. The ELN, which has not assumed or rejected responsibility for the bombs, said to not be associated with any of the suspects.
The 13 remaining suspects have not been charged with the July 2 bombings as the Prosecutor General’s Office so far has failed to present sufficient evidence. They are instead facing charges relating to three different explosions that took place around the city between May and July 2014.
Three of the 13 – David Camilo Rodríguez, subbed the “the professor” by authorities, Heiler Anderson Lamprea, and Gerson Alexander Yacumal – are considered the principal authors of these bombings, and are accused of being connected to the ELN guerrillas.
The trio have been charged with terrorism, personal injury, violence against a public servant, and rebellion, and face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Most of the other suspects are students who are active in the student movement or some other kind of activism, and seven many are members of the human rights NGO Congreso del Pueblo.
These suspects are accused of participating in the 2014 detonation of three low-grade bombs, and face up to 15 years in prison.
The group Congreso del Pueblo has called the arrests “judicial false positives” and an attempt by the government to intimidate social activists.
“Congreso del Pueblo and its human rights organizations denounce and reject the detentions of (13) people, in the form of judicial false positives. These people were members of student groups, social organizations,” the groups said in a press statement.
“We demand that the National Government give guarantees for political participation. It is inconceivable that by killings, threats and arbitrary arrests, they intend to silence the voice of social movement in Colombia,” the statement added.