Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced through his lawyer Thursday that he intends to bring a defamation suit againgst the chief suspect in the country’s deepening peace talks hacking scandal.
Andres Sepulveda, arrested in May for allegedly carrying out cyber espionage against ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group, the country’s largest, has named Uribe as one of several prominent figures in the right-wing Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party Sepulveda claims orchestrated the illicit wiretapping campaign.
In a scandal that has found new life this week after originally surfacing in the heat of the summer’s presidential race, Sepulveda has indicated that Uribe and Democratic Center Director Oscar Ivan Zuluaga paid him to obtain priviledged intelligence from rogue elements of the military and monitor the communications of journalists, opposing political figures, and government and rebel delegates to the peace talks.
The politicians then allegedly used the information obtained to try and derail the peace process, which they have staunchly opposed. Sepulveda has also said that cyber attacks against politicians deemed enemies by the party were a key part of the Democratic Center’s strategy in last March’s congressional elections, from which the party emerged as the largest opposition bloc in Congress.
Even as new allegations and evidence come forth, however, Uribe and his allies have stuck to an aggressive countreroffensive approach.
Since the story first broke just one week before first round elections between Zuluaga and President Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe has claimed Sepulveda is an “infiltrator” sent by the Santos campaign to sabotage Zuluaga’s run at the presidency, a narrative echoed by Zuluaga and other party members.
“The hacker served to penetrate the campaign of Doctor Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in the name of the campaign of Juan Manuel Santos, in the name of President Santos,” he said in a radio interview earlier this week.
Now Uribe, currently a senator for the Democratic Center, has reportedly instructed his lawyer, Jaime Granados, to explore the possibility of a defamation suit against Sepulveda.
He dado poder para denunciar penalmente al hacker.
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 28, 2014
“I’ve authorized legal action against the hacker,” Uribe announced via Twitter Thursday.
“[Uribe] is clearly conscious that the afirmations of Mr. Andres Sepulveda are deceitful, fallacious, calumnious,” said Granados, in an interview with Colomiba’s Blu Radio. “For that reason he’s made this decision.”
The threat of legal action is nothing new from Uribe. The subject of numerous congressional investigations for his alleged ties to paramilitary and narcotrafficking groups, Uribe has gone so far as to threaten a sitting judge with a defamation suit for instructing authorities to investigate the former president.
Granados said that no official brief has been filed yet, but that he has been given license by his client to approach the Prosecutor General’s Office to explore what actions are available.
Legal representatives for Zuluaga and his son, also named by Sepulveda as one of the key players in the scandal, are considering similar actions, as well, according to W Radio.
President Santos, meanwhile, has asked that a full investigation be launched into what he has referred to as a “criminal ring” that threatened the “rule of law.”
Sepulveda is facing as many as 40 years in prison for crimes including espionage. Reports have emerged, however, that he has been offered a plea arrangement in exchange for cooperation.
So far no one from the Democratic Center or Zuluaga campaign has been arrested in conjunction with the scandal.
At the time this article was published, spokesmen for Uribe, Zuluaga, and the Democratic Center could not be reached for comment.