Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has requested that Interpol issue an international arrest warrant against the country’s former intelligence chief who fled to Panama after being tied to illegal wiretapping practices.
According to Caracol Radio, the PGO sent a letter to the international law enforcement agency requesting the arrest of Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the former director of the now-defunct intelligence agency DAS.
Prosecutors in Colombia have accused the former intelligence director of having been one of the main suspects in a case involving the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court magistrates, journalists, human rights organizations and politicians critical of the then-administration of former President Alvaro Uribe.
The letter, sent Monday to Interpol’s headquarters in France, asked the agency to reactivate a “red notice,” which would order Panama to locate and arrest Hurtado.
Additionally, the PGO called on Colombia’s ambassador in Panama, Angela Benedetti, requesting that she help expedite the process.
Hurtado is the former director of the now-defunct DAS intelligence agency, which in 2008 was caught spying on Colombia’s Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians.
The ex-intelligence chief is currently in Panama, where she was granted political asylum in 2010 claiming she was victim of a political persecution.
According to Blu Radio, a statement issued by the PGO said, “In a letter sent to Interpol, the Prosecutor General’s Office requested the implementation of an arrest warrant issued by the Superior Court of Bogota against Maria Del Pilar Hurtado […] via a Interpol ‘red circle’.”
Francisco Echeverry, the PGO’s head of international affairs, will also make a trip to Panama to solicit and expedite the deportation process being initiated against Hurtado.
An initial extradition request was filed by Colombia in 2011, however Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs determined that Hurtado’s extradition “was not viable.”
On Thursday, Panama’s Supreme Court has announced that the political asylum initially granted to Colombia’s former intelligence chief is unconstitutional.
With a vote of 8-1, the country’s supreme court ruled that political asylum granted to Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the former head of the now-defunct DAS intelligence agency, is in violation of the country’s constitution.
The decision came a day after Colombia’s Supreme Court rejected a request by Congress to have the disgraced former spy chief brought back to the country from her exile in Panama to face a series of pending criminal charges.
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 Hurtado’s return from her exile in Panama.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has also publicly stated his support for the extradition process.
The country’s most infamous wiretapping scandal unfolded under Hurtado in 2008, after opposition politicians, media and authorities discovered that Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency, the DAS, had been spying on the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians.
Much of the information was then handed over to right-wing paramilitary groups.
Labeled, “DASgate,” the investigations unveiled a comprehensive and extensive surveillance and interception campaign that had been targeting the Supreme Court in order to discredit the country’s institution that was investigating links between paramilitaries and politicians, the majority being political allies of the former President Alvaro Uribe.
Fact Sheet: DAS wiretapping scandal
The scandal almost immediately cost the head of DAS director Maria del Pilar Hurtado who, in spite of initially denying her agency had been involved with illegal activities, was forced to leave her post.
Hurtado later fled to Panama where she received political asylum months before the Supreme Court ordered an arrest warrant.
In February 2009, weekly Semana revealed that the DAS was the main force behind a dark industry that served paramilitaries, guerrillas and corrupt political forces. The revelations drew international criticism, and led to the resignation of more than 33 DAS agents and more than a dozen of arrests.
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.
- Fiscalía pide a Interpol reactivar circular roja contra María del Pilar Hurtado (Caracol News)
- Fiscalía pide a Interpol reactivar circular roja contra María del Pilar Hurtado (Blu Radio)