Google shut down the Youtube account of a key witness in the trial against Colombia’s former chief prosecutor who is accused of having ties to paramilitary groups.
Witness Richard Riaño was a former agent of the technical investigation unit of the Prosecutor General’s office, who was dismissed from his post after uncovering paramilitary infiltration of the office in 2002. He has been in exile in Canada for the past nine years after being convicted for allegedly illegally leaking inciminating evidence against Osorio, something that the exiled former official denies.
On Friday March 23, just six days before former Prosecutor General Luis Camilo Osorio was scheduled to testify, Riaño received an email from YouTube Services saying that they had received a complaint regarding his YouTube account HackerFiscalia and that they determined that activity in his account violated their Terms of Service.
The notice went on to say that Riaño is prohibited from accessing, possessing or creating any other YouTube accounts. The email did not specify the source of the complaint or how Riaño had violated their policies.
Colombia Reports emailed the Google press office about the case, but has to date received no response.
Riaño said he is sure that the termination of the account is related to Osorio’s pending trial. “It’s related to Osorio because in the video I explain the case step by step, including facts about impunity…that’s why they deleted the information, because it’s key to the case.”
“It’s a good review highlighting important information about the case with audio, video and text that will offer the Commission of Accusations a bigger picture of the investigation,” said the former investigator.
Riaño’s personal website was also temporarily shut down. Riaño first noticed that something was wrong when he was asked for his telephone number before he was allowed to access his email account last Friday.
According to Riaño, “they blocked the site and then they asked me for my telephone number on my email where I had all my contact numbers, so I felt forced to enter my cell phone, so that was the strategy that they used to get my information.”
He went on to say that “the friends of Osorio are the same friends of ex-president Alvaro Uribe. So in that sense I believe they are trying to collect information about the people who are against them, so in this situation they are trying to gather information about me, especially with the telephone number.”
“They have my number and they deleted my videos and my channel, so they got what they want… they tried to silence me because I am the main witness who uncovered the case. It’s a serious violation of my right to free speech. The violation of the right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law,” he added.
Riaño has since uploaded the video on YouTube competitor Vimeo, because “its important that Colombia knows the truth.”
According to Riaño, officials were supposed to fly to Canada to get his testimony, but according to the former official he has not heard from the authorities.
Riaño said he is confident that Osorio will be indicted if his testimony is well received. “In my situation they know that I have evidence and that I am telling the truth. If the commission finds that I was a detective involved in the investigations, Osorio will be sentenced for these crimes in addition to others … he will really have a difficult time trying to defend himself after the whole list of witnesses that are testifying against him,” he said.
Osorio’s trial was set to begin Thursday March 29, but has been delayed by defense lawyer Jaime Granados.
It has not yet been announced when the trial will go before the Commission of Accusations.