Colombia’s Supreme Court rejected a request by Congress to have disgraced former spy chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado brought back to country from her exile in Panama to face a series of pending criminal charges, national media reported on Wednesday.
The criminal chamber of the Supreme Court stated that it is the Prosecutor General’s Office and not Congress’ Second Committee of Foreign Relations that has the power to request del Pilar Hurtado’s — former director of the now defunct Department of Administrative Security (DAS) — return from her exile in Panama, Caracol Radio reported.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had stated that he would request the former spy chief’s exile status be revoked by Panama’s president-elect, Juan Carlos Varela. Santos’ statement came after Varela announced he would review the ex-spy chief’s asylum if Colombia’s justice system requested him to do so.
Fernando Castro, the magistrate in charge of the case, argued that Congress “has no legal interest and standing to make such requests in this process,” and added that the request needs to be taken up by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
A wiretapping scandal within the DAS unfolded in 2008 after it was revealed that Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency had been spying on members of the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians.
As the DAS Director, del Pilar Hurtado fled Colombia in 2010 before an arrest warrant could be brought against her for conspiracy, illegal interception of communication, abuse of public power, and fraud.
FACT SHEET: DAS wiretapping scandal
Del Pilar 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.