Former President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday denied accusations that he was complicit in a 1997 paramilitary massacre. Instead, claimed the current senator, he is victim of a conspiracy.
Based on recent testimony given by “Don Berna,” an extradited paramilitary leader, that Uribe was implicated in the paramilitary killing of 14 in the town of El Aro, Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to open a criminal investigation into the former head of state.
Montealegre followed up on a February court order issued in Medellin that urged to investigate Uribe’s alleged complicity.
In a press statement, Uribe systematically tackled the testimonies and alleged evidence stacked against him, pointing out inconsistencies, biases and unreliable testimonies.
According to Uribe, Don Berna is “one of the most sinister criminals in the country” and thus an unreliable witness.
Francisco Villalba, a former member of paramilitary organization the AUC, testified against Uribe in 1998 and 2008 saying that he had been in a meeting with the then governor in which Uribe congratulated the group.
Uribe insisted on alleged inconsistencies of Villalba’s testimony saying that he couldn’t possibly have been in one of the meetings where the ex-paramilitary had placed him.
Villalba was assassinated in 2009, but his testimony has been kept on record and can be used in court.
Uribe denied accusations that he was implicated in Villalba’s death, saying that the Police had declared the former paramilitary’s murder was “a problem of debts between criminals.”
Another witness, human rights worker Jesus Maria Valle, was killed one year after the massacre. To distance himself from that assassination Uribe explained that the paramilitaries had admitted responsibility for Valle’s death.
Uribe claimed that paramilitary chief Ramiro Vanoy who admitted to being involved with the massacre recently gave a statement to the Prosecutor General’s Office testifying that Uribe had nothing to do with it.
Uribe denied accusations that he altered the course of the investigations into the El Aro massacre in Antioquia, where he was Governor at the time, saying that he did fight the “unjust sentencing of his colleagues” but that he was always upfront about it.
The presence of one of the Antioquian government’s Air Health Service helicopters in the town at the time of the paramilitary massacre was treated as suspicious. Uribe explained that he never manipulated justice because he did not need to hide the routine reason for the helicopter’s presence.
Uribe said “they always make this type of accusation of me during elections,” implying that it is a political tactic of his opponents to derail him.
Montealegre was “accused by [Uribe’s party] of embezzlement,” Uribe ordered the illegal extradition of Berna to the United States, he is Santos’ political opposition and he opposes the FARC‘s integration into politics.
Uribe is the third of his family to be embroiled in accusations over paramilitary activity; his brother Santiago is currently on trial for his alleged founding of a right-wing death squad in the 1980s while his cousin Mario was convicted for using paramilitary aid to get elected into Congress.
Uribe’s own 2002 presidential election campaign, like the campaigns of dozens of congressmen in that election year, received money and support from paramilitary umbrella organization AUC, according to the court.