A Colombian Supreme Court magistrate told RCN Radio Monday that Judge Jenny Jimenez received threatening phone calls after President Alvaro Uribe criticized her decision to arrest Mario Aranguren, former director of the government’s Financial Information and Analysis Unit (UIAF).
According to Hernando Torres, a magistrate from the Supreme Court’s Superior Council of Judicature, Jimenez has been given special police protection after she reported fears for her safety given Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s public statements on the decision to detain Aranguren on charges relating to government security agency DAS’s illegal wiretapping.
Uribe had expressed outrage at the “unjust” arrest of the former government official, saying that the decision created a “lack of confidence” in the country’s justice system. The president went on to accuse an unnamed “higher body” of pressuring a judge to order the arrest.
The president of the Supreme Court, Jaime Arrubla, responded by calling on Uribe to substantiate his allegations.
“To give an order to a judge is a crime,” Arrubla said. “In Colombia, judges are independent, no one can influence their decisions. Because of that, what the president said cannot remain out in the open like that, it delegitimizes the institution.”
Another Supreme Court judge, Julio Cesar Valencia, rejected Uribe’s allegation that the judges were “pressured” to arrest Aranguren, and said that the president’s comments create an atmosphere of doubt in the judicial branch’s decisions, puts judges’ lives at risk.
Uribe has in the past been accused of putting opponent’s lives at risk by directing harsh criticism at them. A Reporters Without Borders report released May said “President Uribe does not like being criticised and lets the media know it. Journalists who do not find favour with the president are often pilloried by him as ‘accomplices of terrorism’ … regardless of the fact that these public comments put them in danger.”