The Prosecutor General’s office has captured a seventh member of Colombia’s now-defunct secret police wanted in connection to the psychological abuse of a journalist.
To date, three high-level officials of Colombia’s former intelligence agency (DAS) are on trial and three more have pled guilty to the “psychological torture” of journalist Claudia Duque, who was investigating the 1999 murder of another journalist.
According to the Colombian Foundation for Freedom of the Press, Duque received repeated phone threats between 2003 and 2004, including one that elaborated the torture and rape of her 10-year-old daughter.
Duque was threatened in reprisal for her investigations into the 1999 murder of another journalist, Jamie Garzon, whose assassination has been linked to paramilitary organization AUC and the DAS.
The Garzon case
At the time she began receiving death threats, Duque was looking into irregularities in the case of Jaime Garzon, a popular Colombian journalist and satirist who was gunned down in 1999. Although police have captured two key suspects in the case, investigations have nonetheless stalled in the system for over 15 years. According to the Colombian Commission of Jurors, the prosecution has been hampered by criminal acts, including “deliberate diversion” by former government officials linked to the murder.
In 2009, a source in the Investigator General’s office claimed that both witnesses and evidence in the Garzon case had been corrupted by DAS officials.
Jose Miguel Narvaez, a former DAS deputy director charged with threatening Duque, is currently standing trial for organizing the murder in connection with the demobilized paramilitary group AUC.
Jorge Eliecer Plazas Acevedo, a former coronel, was captured earlier this year for his role in planning the murder.
Garzon was a well-loved journalist and comedian who frequently intervened between the state, victims, and the country’s armed guerrilla groups. On several occasions, he mediated the release of kidnapped civilians from the hands of the FARC and ELN, according to Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper.
It was most likely these activities which led to him being labeled as a “guerrilla collaborator” by AUC paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño.
DAS wiretapping scandal
Colombia’s former intelligence agency, DAS, was dissolved in 2011 after it was uncovered that the agency had been illegally spying on Supreme Court justices, opposition candidates, human rights defenders, and journalists. The DAS reported directly to the office of then-President Alvaro Uribe, who has also been implicated in the scandal.
In 2009, evidence in the wiretapping case, as well as files pertaining to Duque’s harassment case, were discovered to have gone missing.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who was director of DAS at the time the scandal broke, has been a fugitive from justice since 2010 when she took refuge in Panama. At this point her whereabouts are unknown.
- Piden investigar a Uribe por expediente de chuzadas (El Tiempo)
- Exdirector de inteligencia del DAS acepta cargos de tortura (El Tiempo)
- 15 Años Sin Jaime: Estado Del Proceso Penal Y Reacciones A La Vinculación Del General (R) Rito Alejo Del Río (Colombian Commission of Lawyers press release)
- Cúpula del DAS a juicio por tortura agravada contra Claudia Julieta Duque (Foundation for Freedom of the Press)