Despite not knowing his location, Uribe declared that the media had unduly influenced the justice system into seeking a conviction, that Restrepo had no guarantee of a fair trial in Colombia, and that the former peace commissioner had a letter of recommendation from him.
Uribe said, “To say they have guarantees when much of the media applies pressure […] typifies the lack of guarantees, through outlandish facts and the imputation of fraud […] and embezzlement, which demands that Dr Restrepo is deprived of liberty.”
Restrepo, who served as peace commissioner during Uribe’s presidency, was last week discovered to have fled the country before an arrest warrant for his part in the 2006 “false demobilization” scandal could be executed.
He faces charges of conspiracy, embezzlement by appropriation, fraud, trafficking and possession of weapons, over the scandal, and a new contempt of court charge over his January 8 disappearance, and will be tried in absentia if he does not return.
The former official, who oversaw paramilitary and guerrilla demobilization’s during his tenure, is alleged to have plotted with imprisoned FARC guerrilla “Olivo Saldaña” and a drug trafficker to pay homeless and unemployed people in the central Tolima department $278 each to train, live and act like FARC guerrillas, then surrender to security forces.
Restrepo is the second high-profile former Uribe official to prefer exile over the Colombian justice system, with ex-DAS intelligence service head Maria Pilar Hurtado currently in Panama, where an appeal for her extradition was rejected this month. She is wanted for involvement in the illegal wiretapping of journalists, Supreme Court judges and Uribe’s political opponents.