The Colombian congress has approved an extradition request for Maria del Pilar Hurtado, Colombia’s former intelligence director who faces a number of criminal charges in the country.
According to the radio network Radio W, the Colombian House of Representatives approved the extradition request, which calls on the president of Panama — where Hurtado is currently in exile — to extradite the former intelligence director.
Hurtado was the former director of the now-defunct DAS intelligence agency, which in 2008 was caught spying on Colombia’s Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians.
The revelations drew international criticism, and led to the resignation of more than 33 DAS agents and more than a dozen of arrests.
Hurtado’s extradition request was filed by Congressman Ivan Cepeda, a victim of the DAS spying scandal.
Cepeda told Radio W, “It is the legislature that makes this request to the competent authorities. The president-elect of Panama has expressed his intention to review the situation, and we hope that he addresses this request filed by those who were victims of the DAS’ criminal activity under Ms. Hurtado’s leadership.”
Panama’s President-elect Juan Carlos Varela stated last week that the asylum granted to Maria del Pilar Hurtado, former director of the now defunct Department of Administrative Security (DAS), will be reviewed if there are new requirements by the Colombian justice system.
The president-elect, who approved the status of asylum in November 2010 as Panama’s Foreign Minister, said that the review would occur if he was asked to do so by the Colombian government, stating that “assessments must be done according to the requests of the Colombian justice system.”
Panama’s decision to grant Hurtado asylum — who fled Colombia before an arrest warrant could be brought against her — was criticized by Colombian officials, Panamanian lawyers and students, and former president of Panama Martin Torrijos.
If returned to Colombia, the former DAS director who ordered the spying on supreme court judges, journalists, human rights workers and opposition politicians and will face charges of conspiracy, the illegal interception of communication, abuse of public power and fraud.
MORE: DAS wiretapping scandal
The country’s most infamous wiretapping scandal unfolded under Hurtado in 2008, after opposition politicians, media and authorities discovered that Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency, the DAS, had been spying on the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians. Much of the information was then handed over to right-wing paramilitary groups.
Labeled, “DASgate,” the investigations unveiled a comprehensive and extensive surveillance and interception campaign that had been targeting the Supreme Court in order to discredit the country’s institution that was investigating links between paramilitaries and politicians, the majority being political allies of the former President Alvaro Uribe.
The scandal almost immediately cost the head of DAS director Maria del Pilar Hurtado who, in spite of initially denying her agency had been involved with illegal activities, was forced to leave her post. Del Pilar later fled to Panama where she received political asylum months before the Supreme Court ordered an arrest warrant.
In February 2009, weekly Semana revealed that the DAS was the main force behind a dark industry that served paramilitaries, guerrillas and corrupt political forces.
In 2011, President Juan Manuel Santos dissolved the DAS agency.