In two tweets, Santos asked both the Inspector General’s Office and the international community to make sure the former president’s brother can count on “all the constitutional and legal guarantees” while Santiago Uribe stands trial for allegedly founding “The 12 Apostles” paramilitary group in the 1990s.
The former president’s younger brother was arrested earlier Monday, years after prosecutors began investigating the 12 Apostles and Uribe’s alleged complicity in the founding of the group became public.
Uribe’s party, the Democratic Center, said the trial was part of an ongoing political persecution of allies of the former president, who has turned against Santos and his flagship policy of seeking peace with the FARC and ELN, two leftist rebel group that have been engaged in a war with the state since 1964.
Justice Minister Yesid Reyes denied that the arrest is part of a political persecution on behalf of the Santos administration.
“The government has absolutely nothing to do with this decision or with any decision taken by the judicial branch or the Prosecutor General’s Office,” Reyes told Colombian press agency Colprensa.
The minister also called on Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, like Uribe a critic of Santos, to “be very attentive that Mr. Santiago Uribe’s fundamental rights are respected.”
Uribe’s younger brother is the second in the Uribe family to be arrested on charges he had ties to paramilitary death squads.
In 2011, Uribe’s cousin Mario, a former Senator, was sentenced to seven years in prison for having used paramilitary intimidation and money to get elected into the Senate in 2002.
Since before leaving office in 2010, Colombia’s former president has been losing political power after numerous investigations revealed far-stretching ties between Uribe allies and paramilitary group AUC.
Uribe himself is facing a criminal investigation himself about his alleged complicity in a 1998 paramilitary massacre in Antioquia, the province where Santiago Uribe is alleged to have founded the 12 Apostles.
Prosecutors are also looking into accusations that the former president allowed far-right illegal armed groups operate from his farm.
The former president has consistently denied any involvement with the AUC or other paramilitary groups and has equally consistently claimed that the stacking number of criminal convictions of allies are part of a “criminal conspiracy” to discredit his political reputation and legacy.