Colombia’s Supreme Court has sentenced Colombian senator and former president of the congress Javier Caceres Leal to nine years in prison for ties with paramilitary groups in the north of the country, reported local media Wednesday.
The court found Caceres guilty of conspiring with the Heroes of Montes de Maria, one of the most notorious blocs in Colombia’s now-defunct paramilitary organization, the AUC.
The trial hinged on the testimony of two former paramilitary leaders — Uber Enrique Banquez, alias “Juancho Dique”, and Jose del Carmen Gelvez Albarracin, alias “The Grey”.
Citing allegations made by the two leaders, the court also called for investigations into possible misappropriation of funds from the municipality of Campo de la Cruz in northern Colombia and ties between paramilitaries and the Cardique, an organization responsible for the management and protection of the environment in the northern department of Bolivar.
According to Juancho Dique’s testimony during the trial, Caceres met with him in the town of Nanguma in 2003, during which the two formed an alliance. “The Grey” testified that he held meetings with Ceceres and several other politicians in Bogota in the first half of 2004.
Caceres maintained his innocence throughout the trial. He told the court his life had been exemplary “from the mud up to the summit,” according to magazine Semana.
His lawyer Sonia Patricia Sierra argued that testimony from “The Grey”, Juancho Dique and other former paramilitary leaders was contradictory and questionable.
Caceres, a senator and president of congress from July 2009 to July 2010, was arrested in 2010. He was an important figure in the congressional debates that led to the creation of the Justice and Peace Law in 2005, which intended to assist Colombia’s peace process by granting leniency to paramilitaries who agreed to demobilize.
The trial and conviction are part of the parapolitics scandal, in which hundred of Colombian politicians have been investigated and dozens convicted for alleged ties to paramilitary groups.