The disgraced ex-director of Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency remains in Panama under official protection despite repeated requests for her extradition, reported national news.
After meeting with diplomatic authorities in Panama, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin announced that Maria del Pilar Hurtado is still receiving asylum from Colombia’s northern neighbor, pending a Supreme Court decision, according to the El Espectador newspaper.
“I had the opportunity last week to have a meeting with the foreign minister of Panama where they told me that this information is not certain, that there is no court decision, and nothing has changed with respect to this because there is no decision from the Supreme Court of Panama institutionally declaring asylum,” she assured.
Last month, it was erroneously reported that Hurtado’s asylum had been rescinded by the Panamanian Supreme Court, which has apparently yet to make a decision on the matter.
Though Holguin indicated a ruling would be forthcoming, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has initiated a separate process that could see an international warrant handed down for Hurtado’s arrest.
The country’s most infamous wiretapping scandal unfolded under Hurtado in 2008, after it was revealed that Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency, the DAS, had been spying on the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians.
Much of the information was then handed over to right-wing paramilitary groups, who were being investigated for widespread human rights violations and whose cases were set to appear before the Supreme Court.
Labeled, “DASgate,” after the infamous wiretapping scandal that led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon, the scandal revealed an extensive surveillance campaign mounted by the administration of then-President Alvaro Uribe. The wiretapping targeted the 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 the former president.
Fact Sheet: DAS wiretapping scandal
The scandal almost immediately cost Hurtado her job, despite Hurtado’s initial denials of any illegal activity.
Hurtado later fled to Panama where she received political asylum months before the Colombian Supreme Court could order an arrest warrant.
In February 2009, weekly Semana revealed that the DAS was the main force behind a dark industry that served paramilitaries, guerrillas and corrupt political forces. The revelations drew international criticism, and led to the resignation of more than 33 DAS agents and more than a dozen of arrests.
Hurtado received political asylum in Panama in November 2010 after claiming she had fallen victim to political persecution, and she has been residing in the country ever since.
- Cancilleria admite que asilo de Hurtado sigue vigente (El Espectador)