Panama’s decision to grant political asylum to Maria del Pilar Hurtado, a former director of Colombia’s intelligence service DAS, who is under investigation for the illegal wiretapping of opponents of former President Alvaro Uribe, is leading to speculation that Uribe’s closest aides are fleeing abroad to avoid incriminating their former boss.
According to Colombia’s Interior and Justice Ministry, six suspects in the wiretap scandal have sought political asylum in Panama, but the Panamanian government denies this and says it has only received an extradition request from the former DAS director.
According to Noticias Uno director and Semana columnist Daniel Coronell, Hurtado told him personally that Uribe advised his former intelligence chief to consider seeking asylum.
In his weekly column in Semana, Coronell references “the close friendship Uribe has with the Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, and the businesses and frequent visits to that country of the sons of the former president.”
Coronell went on to write that the former president used his personal relationship with Spanish Popular Party leader Jose Maria Aznar to secure refuge in Spain for Uribe’s former chief of staff Bernardo Moreno, who also left the country while the prosecutor general was investigating the official’s role in the wiretap scandal.
Lawyer Luis Guillermo Perez, of the dissident Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyer’s Collective, told Semana that he will travel to Panama to convince Panamanian authorities to revoke Hurtado’s asylum status as their “good faith” was abused by her petition.
The lawyer will meet with Panama’s inspector general to tell him that Uribe, and not Colombian judicial authorities, is guilty of political persecution, because “Uribe turned the DAS into a political police, and the wiretaps physically and mentally damaged the victims.”
A second lawyer from the collective said that Panama’s prosecutor general is obliged to either extradite or prosecute the former DAS director, because the crimes she is accused of fall under international law.
Both Hurtado and Moreno were convicted by Colombia’s inspector general for their role in the scandal that involved the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court judges, journalists, human rights organizations and politicians. Both are facing criminal charges from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The two ex-officials reported directly to Uribe, who denies ever having ordered the wiretaps.