A court in central Colombia became the first to directly condemn the state for a 2008 illegal wiretapping conspiracy, in a ruling released Thursday.
According to national media, the Administrative Tribunal of the central state of Cudinamarca ordered the Colombian government to pay nearly $200,000 to the family of former Supreme Court President Yesid Ramirez, one of the targets of the illicit domestic espionage.
“The utilization of information [gained from warrantless wiretapping] with the goal of denigrating the reputation of a public servant is illegal when the facts that supposedly led to the [wiretapping] have not been established in their appropriate penal form,” wrote Tribunal President Leonardo Torres in his decision, according to Caracol Radio.
The court mandated that the indemnisation be paid up front by the state, which would later be reimbursed by Jorge Alberto Lagos and Fernando Alonso Tavares, deputy directors of counterintelligence and intelligence, respectively, at the time of the wiretapping.
The ruling is the first to hold the national government directly accountable for the events that became known as the “Colombian Watergate.” In 2008, the now-defunct DAS intelligence agency was found to have been performing illegal surveillance on journalists, opposition politicians, human rights groups and Supreme Court justices investigating links between politicians and the demobilized AUC paramilitary block.
MORE: DAS wiretapping scandal
The conspiracy was revealed to have reached the upper echelons of government, including high-level officials in the President’s Office, as well as, potentially, the president himself, Alvaro Uribe, whose alleged role in ordering the covert intelligence operations is currently being investigated by Congress and who will be rejoining the Senate this summer after winning a seat in March’s congressional elections.
Lagos and Tavares have both faced charges for authorizing the illegal surveillance, and received reduced sentencing for testimony implicating members of Uribe’s inner circle.
Ex-justice Ramirez, who originally brought the suit in late 2011, had been asking for $1 million as recompense for the illegal invasion of his family’s privacy. As this is the first case to hold the state fiscally responsible for the DAS’s actions, it is unclear whether other prominent victims will now be seeking damages against the state or former DAS officials.
At the time this article was published, Colombia Reports was unable to reach the Administrative Tribunal of Cudinamarca or the national Ministry of Justice for comment on how much liability the decision leaves open.