Colombia’s Supreme Court on Thursday called ex-guerrilla leader “Jesus Santrich” to trial on drug-trafficking charges.
Despite the summons, no court date has been set. However, the court clarified that the trial would go ahead “once the necessary evidence has been gathered.”
Santrich, whose real name is Zeuxis Hernandez, was released from jail for the second time last week and was previously shielded from extradition by the war crimes tribunal, which claimed it had received no evidence indicating whether or when the FARC’s former ideologue would have trafficked drugs.
The Supreme Court has refused to put out an arrest warrant against Santrich, stating that “from the content of the evidence collected so far and from the procedural reality, it does not appear that it is necessary, proportional and reasonable.”
This development comes hot on the heels of the court’s ruling to take over Santrich’s case from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
By Colombian law, sitting politicians must be put to trial by the Supreme Court and Santrich technically sits in the Colombian congress, although his year-long imprisonment dating from May 2018 has prevented him from taking his seat.
The case so far
Santrich was arrested in May 2018, after the US filed an extradition request, claiming the virtually blind FARC leader conspired to traffic drugs.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) denied the request and ordered his release from prison, claiming there was no evidence to support the US claim Santrich conspired to traffic 10 tons of cocaine between 2017 and last year.
The JEP did not clear Santrich, and recommended the former guerrilla leader be tried by the Supreme Court.
This decision not to extradite sparked a crisis in the government of President Ivan Duque and the resignation of Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who was accused by the JEP of possibly having broken the law in his office’s attempt to link Santrich to drug trafficking.
Minutes after he was released, Santrich was recaptured and imprisoned again by the prosecution, but this recapture order was later overturned and Santrich was released again.
The evidence against Santrich
The Prosecutor General’s Office and the DEA claim to possess evidence Santrich did conspire to traffic drugs. As a result, the Supreme Court asked that all evidence be handed over to the court.
This includes evidence gathered in US territory. One key allegation against Santrich dated from November 2017, when Mexican narcos are alleged to have received a 5 kilogram “test shipment” of cocaine in Florida, organised by the ex-guerrilla.
Regarding this shipment, the court has requested that the US “hand over documentation related to the seizure”
Another key aspect in the development of the case will be the testimony of DEA informant Marlon Marin, the nephew of FARC leader “Ivan Marquez.”
Marin, who is in the US, is set to testify against Santrich. The Supreme Court will hear his testimony via a video link on Monday.
Santrich and the FARC have consistently claimed that the former ideologue was “framed” by the DEA and former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez.