The key witness in a criminal case against the younger brother of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is refusing to continue cooperating with authorities until the Prosecutor General’s Office can guarantee his safety, local media reported Wednesday.
Retired National Police Major Juan Carlos Meneses has repeatedly accused Santiago Uribe of links to the former paramilitary organization, “Los 12 Apsosteles,” and was the key witness in the case being mounted against the central Colombian business man. Uribe is the younger brother of former President Alvaro Uribe, himself the subject of various similar accusations.
Meneses — a former fugitive who turned himself in to authorities in January on charges relating his own alleged involvement with the 12 Apostles — is now claiming, however, that the authorities have failed to comply with the agreed upon terms of his testimony and that his life is in danger as a result.
“I am going to decline [to testify], because the Prosecutor General’s Office deceived me. A bargain was made about my place of detention, and they sent me to the place where the hired killer that I was pointing to as a member of the 12 Apostles is,” he said.
The former major went on to say that he still had more information to add to the investigation and indicated that both Uribe brothers and former senator Dilian Francisca Tora were involved with paramilitaries that carried out massacres in the 90s.
However, Meneses said he would not cooperate until the prosecution honored its arrangements.
In 2010, Maneses told the Washington Post that Santiago Uribe was the main strategist and fundraiser behind the 12 Apostles, and accused him of murdering petty thieves, suspected guerrillas, and their sympathizers.
Maneses, who openly admitted to being involved with the paramilitary group while acting as police chief, spent several years in exile in Venezuela before turning himself in due to threats made on his life and on the lives of his loved ones.
After years on the run, Maneses told Colombian media, “I will not run away from authorities for the rest of my life. I am turning myself in.”
Santiago Uribe was investigated for his alleged ties to paramilitary groups in 1996, 2000, and 2013. None of the investigations has led to his arrest or gone to trial, however. Similarly, Alvaro Uribe — who served as president during the demobilization of Colombia’s largest paramilitary organization, the AUC — has managed to avoid prosecution, despite being widely accused of high-level ties to Colombia’s paramilitary structure.