An ex-FARC member, charged with helping to stage a fake rebel demobilization, will incriminate Colombia’s former peace commissioner following paramilitary threats, said the guerrilla’s former lawyer.
Olivo Saldaño, the former guerrilla who has admitted staging the demobilization of a non-existent FARC front, has allegedly been forced by paramilitaries to falsely implicate Luis Carlos Restrepo during his trial.
Lawyer Jaime Restrepo was representing Saldaño until Tuesday, but stepped down after his client revealed he planned to lie about the former peace commissioner’s involvement.
Saldaño claims paramilitaries have threatened him and offered him $550,000 to testify that Luis Carlos Restrepo was involved with the staged demobilization of dozens of members of the non-existent Cacica Gaitana FARC front in 2006.
According to witnesses and the suspect himself, civilians were paid to dress and arm themselves as guerrillas, then hand themselves in and “demobilize.” The highly-publicized demobilization was hailed as a victory in the government’s fight against the FARC, and as a great achievement for Luis Carlos Restrepo.
Jaime Restrepo says he knows the names of the paramilitaries who threatened his former client, but cannot reveal their names as his life and his family’s safety is at risk.
He claims Saldaño is also acting out of fear. Describing the last time he visited the former guerrilla in jail, the lawyer said, “He took me to one side where no one could hear, and said, ‘The situation is very delicate. I am very afraid.'”
The lawyer told Radio Caracol that when he learned Saldaño was changing his testimony, “I decided I could not become an accomplice in this disgrace against Luis Carlos [Restrepo] and against the military who participated in this demobilization. So I quit.”
Colombia’s former Prosecutor General Raul Agudelo requested in June 2011 that Saldaño be removed from the Justice and Peace Law process for the orchestration of the false demobilization.