Cesar Perez, former president of Colombia’s House of Representatives, pleaded not guilty Monday to taking part in the massacre of 43 civilians, reported newspaper El Tiempo.
Perez is being tried for conspiring to slaughter people in Segovia, Antioquia, who were gunned down in November 1988 in one of Colombia’s first paramilitary massacres.
According to the accusation, he financed the paramilitary incursion after Patriotic Union (UP) candidate Rita Ivone Tobon beat him in the town’s mayoral race.
The UP was a political party founded by the FARC and Colombia’s Communist Party following 1985 peace negotiations, which was decimated by assassinations of its members and violent attacks.
The Segovia massacre was preceded by threats against the town’s inhabitants and UP members, of which Perez denied having knowledge.
“I respected the town’s decision,” the former politician told the court.
He also denied having spoken to Vicente and Carlos Castaño, the brothers who led Colombia’s largest paramilitary organization, the AUC.
Paramilitaries entered the town’s main square and murdered people suspected of being affiliated with the UP, on the Castaños’ orders.
Nobody has ever been brought to justice for the massacre, which was not investigated by Colombia’s Supreme Court until 2010.