The former director of Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency will officially lose her asylum status in Panama on Tuesday, allowing her to be “detained and deported” back to Colombia to answer for illegal wiretapping charges, national media reported on Sunday.
As Colombia Reports had previously reported, a ruling handed down by Panama’s Supreme Court declared Maria del Pilar Hurtado’s asylum was unconstitutional. The decision, expected to go into effect Tuesday, would allow authorities to deport the former director of Colombia’s now-defunct Administrative Department of Security (DAS), who is wanted in relation to the so-called “Dasgate” wiretapping scandal.
Hurtado was the director of the DAS from 2007 to 2009, and is wanted in Colombia for various crimes related to her participation in the illegal interception and monitoring of journalists, judges, congressmen, and human rights defenders that occurred during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe.
After repeated requests by Colombian authorities for Hurtado’s extradition, Panama’s Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of the decree that guaranteed the former spy-chief asylum on May 29, though the verdict was only released on June 18.
The wiretapping scandal is reported to have also targeted Colombia’s Supreme Court, in the hopes of discrediting the justices who would be investigating the links between paramilitaries and the so-called “parapoliticians” they collaborated with, the majority of whom were political allies of former president Uribe.
The scandal almost immediately cost Hurtado her job who, in spite of initially denying her agency had been involved with illegal activities, was forced to leave her post. She fled to Panama in 2010, where she received political asylum months before Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered an arrest warrant.
Official charges against her amount to aggravated conspiracy, violation of protected communications, embezzlement, and falsification of government documents.
FACT SHEET: DAS wiretapping scandal
Hurtado can be detained and deported immediately
According to lawyer Angel Alvarez, who along with Paulo Vega, introduced the constitutional complaint in 2011 against the territorial asylum granted to Hurtado, said that “the sentence of unconstitutionality will be put into effect […] definitively and with immediate application, three days after the notification of the parties,” adding the date to be on Tuesday June 24 at 5 PM.
According to Alvarez, Hurtado can be “detained and deported immediately”, as has been “the tradition of immediate deportation that the director of migration in this administration has followed.”
Panamanian law also establishes that an immigrant may be given the choice to wilfully leave the country within 9 days after their deportation sentence. If they do not comply with this order, then the forced deportation proceeds, El Espectador reported.
New extradition order required
Panama’s Inspector general, Ana Belfon, promised in early June that only after the Supreme Court verdict in Panama was final would Colombia be able to formally submit a new extradition order for Hurtado before the Panamanian Foreign Ministry.
A Colombian extradition order against Hurtado was rejected in February 2012 by the government of outgoing president Ricardo Martinelli, who had denied accusations that he had protected Hurtado and stated that he was unaware of her whereabouts.
Martinelli stated last month during an official visit to Madrid that the decision regarding the new Colombian extradition order against Hurtado would be left in the hands of his successor, President-elect Juan Carlos Varela, who has stated that he will analyze Colombia’s formal request.