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Judge orders ex-Colombian president freed from house arrest

But a judge ruled Saturday that the August order could not be upheld under a new legal framework under which Uribe is being investigated since resigning his Senate seat. The Supreme Court had argued in its 1,554-page decision in August that there was ample evidence to show Uribe had engaged in trying to pressure former paramilitaries into retracting damaging statements against the ex-president.

PTI | Bogota | Updated: 10-10-2020 20:51 IST | Created: 10-10-2020 20:51 IST
Judge orders ex-Colombian president freed from house arrest

Powerful ex-Colombia President Álvaro Uribe was ordered freed from house arrest Saturday while he is investigated for possible witness tampering. A judge ordered Uribe's release in a case that has divided this South American nation and exposed lingering tensions over Colombia's peace accord for ending a half-century conflict with leftist guerrillas.

The country's Supreme Court ordered Uribe detained in August during the investigation, shocking Colombians and unleashing protests in favour and against the decision. He was the first president in Colombia's recent history to be ordered placed on house arrest. But a judge ruled Saturday that the August order could not be upheld under a new legal framework under which Uribe is being investigated since resigning his Senate seat.

The Supreme Court had argued in its 1,554-page decision in August that there was ample evidence to show Uribe had engaged in trying to pressure former paramilitaries into retracting damaging statements against the ex-president. But the high court relinquished control of the case when Uribe resigned his Senate seat, handing it to the chief prosecutor's office.

Magistrates have since ruled that Uribe should be tried under a different legal framework designed for ordinary citizens. That decision paved the way for Uribe's release order Saturday. The former president's lawyer argued that because Uribe is only under investigation and has not been charged he should be feed. Prosecutor Gabriel Ramon Jaimes agreed, telling the judge he believed that Uribe's due process rights had been violated, but also stressing that the investigation continues.

“My request today is not a prelude of procedural steps still to come,” he said. “There will be no impunity. There will be justice.” Uribe has vehemently denied the allegations. His supporters contended the house arrest decision was unfair because ex-guerrillas have been allowed to remain free while they testify about war crimes.

His critics argue that the courts have effectively turned a blind eye until now toward numerous accusations that Uribe had ties to paramilitary groups during the conflict. Such groups were organized by wealthy landlords, sometimes with the complicity of the state, to fight guerrillas who espoused a leftist ideology while often resorting to kidnapping and extortion.

Jaimes said prosecutors will advance their investigation fairly. “The victims demand truth, justice and reparations,” he said. “And the justice system should provide effective answers but always within the confines of the law.”


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