Six former DAS officials suspected of involvement in the illegal wiretapping of government opponents requested political asylum in Panama, Colombia’s interior and justice minister confirmed Friday.
Minister German Vargas Lleras made the announcement after Panama granted political asylum to former DAS director Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who is under criminal investigation for ordering the illegal wiretaps.
According to Vargas Lleras, Bogota “respects Panama’s decision,” but added that “we regret that, while having such a good and fruitful relation like we have with the Panamanean government, they did not inform or talked to us about this issue.”
Del Pilar Hurtado has been in Panama since Monday, she said Friday. The former DAS director is one of the main suspects in the scandal involving the illegal wiretapping of supreme court judges, journalists, politicians and human rights workers. Colombia’s Inspector General barred her from holding public office for 18 years for her involvement in the scandal.
Panama’s decision to gran asylum was rejected by most political leaders and victims of the wiretapping in Colombia.
However, political supporters of former President Uribe applauded Panama’s decision. Roy Barreras, senator for President Juan Manuel Santos‘ Partido de la U said “former government officials are not safe in Colombia.” Uribe’s former presidential advisor Jose Obdulio Gaviria, himself suspected of involvement in the intelligence agency’s illegal practices, expressed his “complete solidarity with Maria del Pilar. We are being judges by enemies. She has all the right to … the Supreme Court of Justice is prevaricating and acts as a political power, not a judicial one.”
The Colombian government did not announce which suspects have requested asylum and if these requests have been granted.