Colombia’s Supreme Court has rejected a request by the prosecution to call former President Alvaro Uribe and President Juan Manuel Santos to testify against former top officials accused of illegally wiretapping government opponents, reported local media Thursday.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who served as the director of the now-defunct Colombian intelligence agency DAS, and Uribe’s former Chief-of-Staff, Bernardo Moreno, are both on trial for involvement in illegal wiretapping. The prosecution alleges they facilitated the unauthorized wiretapping of judges, political opponents, human rights activists and journalists.
The court judged the opinions of Santos and Uribe to be irrelevant given that they had no knowledge of the wiretapping. At the time of the wiretapping, Santos was Uribe’s defense minister.
The ruling was controversial given Uribe’s close working relationships with Moreno and Pilar. In October 2010, the Colombian Congress’ Accusation Commission officially opened an investigation into the former president’s involvement in the illegal wiretapping of his opponents.
On October 4, 2010, the Inspector General’s Office barred Moreno from holding public office for 18 years for allegedly ordering the wiretapping.
Del Pilar Hurtado fled Colombia in late 2010 and was eventually granted asylum by Panamanian authorities. In early February 2012, Panama denied Colombia’s request for Pilar to be extradited. In April of 2012, Colombian authorities responded by accusing Panama of undermining Colombia’s judicial system.
Uribe has previously spoken out in defense of Moreno and Del Pilar Hurtado, labelling them the victims of political persecution. The former President has always denied to have known about the illegal wiretapping.
The wiretap scandal forced Uribe to start a procedure to shut down the DAS that was plagued by accusations of corruption and collaboration with paramilitary death squads and drug trafficking.