Colombia’s Constitutional Court allowed politicians convicted by the Supreme Court without appeal after 2013 to retroactively claim this right.
The sentence followed a writ by former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2014 over the misappropriation of $25 million in agricultural subsidies.
While granting Arias his right to appeal, the court stressed that the sentence remained valid and the former minister must appeal his sentence while imprisoned.
Until a reform in 2018, privileged crime suspects like ministers, lawmakers and governors were tried and sentenced by the Supreme Court without the right to appeal.
Arias initially fled to the United States to evade imprisonment, but was sent back to face justice after a US judge rejected the former minister’s claim he was the victim of political persecution.
Arias and his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, have since tried to secure the former minister’s right to appeal, respectively in court and in Congress.
While Uribe sought to change the law that would allow politicians convicted since 1986 to appeal their sentences, the Constitutional Court ruled only politicians convicted after January 30, 2014 could do so.
The Supreme Court said it “adheres to, but disagrees with” the Constitutional Court sentence and said the other high court would be responsible if the provisional sentence disrupted the rule of law.
With the unconditional defense of the country’s institutionality that characterizes it, the Supreme Court of Justice will comply with the order. The Constitutional Court is responsible for the impact of the unsuspected consequences on the rule of law of this particular decision.
According to the Supreme Court, the decision in favor of Arias “sets a dangerous precedent of uncertainty in ordinary jurisdiction and legal insecurity in criminal justice,” claiming it allowed a convicted criminal to appeal a decision that at the time was perfectly valid, according to the constitution.
According to newspaper El Espectador, the decision could enable 32 politicians who were convicted between 2014 and the 2018 installment of the Supreme Court’s Appeals Chamber to appeal their conviction.