Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Thursday criticized a Bogota court’s decision to sentence retired Colombian army colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega to 30 years in jail for his role in the forced disappearance of 11 civilians in the 1985 army siege of the Palace of Justice, which had been taken over by M-19 guerrillas.
The president commented that the bloody siege was due to a criminal alliance between drug traffickers and guerrillas, and said that an army commander who was simply doing his job had been sentenced, while “the criminal actors, none of them are in jail.”
“It hurts and it’s sad,” Uribe said of Plazas Vega’s sentence, which was handed down Wednesday.
Plazas Vegas is the only Colombian military officer to have been sentenced for his role the siege.
The colonel was in charge of the siege in which the justice building was destroyed. The Bogota court heard that Plazas Vega ordered the escaped civilians to a nearby military school, after which they disappeared.
In a 302 page ruling by Judge Maria Estela Jara found Plazas Vega guilty of the crime of forced disappearance.
Families of the victims expressed joy at verdict, despite the fact that the ruling does not mention any form of compensation for them.
Plazas Vega’s defense team, who had insisted the former colonel was innocent, said they would appeal the verdict. The colonel remains in detention at a Bogota military hospital, where he is recuperating from reported psychological stress caused by the trial.
At the end of May there were reports that Judge Jara was being followed. In January a plot to assassinate the Bogota judge was uncovered.