Panama President Ricardo Martinelli on Sunday rejected criticism on the political asylum granted to the former director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS, claiming it’s a “sovereign decision” of his government.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, Martinelli told press “there is no controversy in this granting, as it is a sovereign decision by a state.”
The political asylum caused fierce criticism in Colombia where former DAS director Maria del Pilar Hurtado is under criminal investigation for allegedly ordering the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court magistrates, journalists, politicians, and human rights organizations deemed inconvenient for the government of former President Alvaro Uribe.
Del Pilar Hurtado has already been barred from holding public office for 18 years by the country’s Inspector General’s Office.
According to Martinelli, it is not the first time Panama has granted political asylum to high-level foreign officials, giving the example of Haiti’s former dictator Raoul Cedras and former Presidents Abdala Bucaram (of Ecuador), Jorge Serrano Elias (of Guatemala), and Juan Domingo Peron (of Argentina).
“The former director of the intelligence agency met with all the requirements to request asylum. Panama is a country that is open to all cultures and when the requirements are met it’s the sovereign decision of a country to give or not give political asylum,” Martinelli said.