Former Colombian spy chief sentenced to 25 years
Published Wednesday, September 14, 2011 1:56PM EDT
BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's Supreme Court convicted a former director of the country's domestic intelligence agency Wednesday of criminal conspiracy for colluding with illegal far-right militias, sentencing him to 25 years in prison.
Jorge Noguera was chief of the country's Administrative Department of Security, known as the DAS, under former President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2005. Prosecutors tried him in connection with the killing of leftist activists and labour union leaders and said he had shared lists of the activists with right-wing death squads. The court announced its verdict Wednesday but didn't release a written decision.
Noguera resigned from the DAS in 2005 amid reports that the agency was infiltrated by the illegal militias, known as paramilitaries. Shortly after his resignation, Uribe stirred more criticism by appointing Noguera as Colombia's consul-general in Milan, Italy.
The conviction tightens pressure on Uribe, who has steadfastedly defended his former spy chief while watching other allies come under legal scrutiny.
Uribe's Twitter account posted a message Wednesday responding to the verdict: "I have trusted him, if he had committed an offence, it pains me and I offer apologies to the citizenry."
Noguera, who has denied the charges, was also found guilty of destroying and hiding public documents. He was ordered to pay a fine of about $1.9 million and another $89,000 to the relatives of college professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis, who was murdered by paramilitaries in 2004.
Correa had been investigating the paramilitaries' role in the forced displacement of farmers in the country's Caribbean region.
The conviction was one of the strongest repudiations so far of the government's actions in a counterinsurgency that targeted the leftist guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other rebels.
Documents found in the computer of a paramilitary and testimony from former DAS officials showed Noguera delivering to paramilitaries names of union members and activists.
The high court, however, absolved Noguera of aggravated homicide in connection with the deaths of journalist Zully Codina Perez and politician Fernando Pisciotti Vanstrhalen, both of whom were killed by gunmen in late 2003.
Leftist congressman Ivan Cepeda said it was "very telling that ex-President Alvaro Uribe has defended with so much insistence this official."
Cepeda said the conviction "isn't dealing with any upright and honest official, as ex-President Uribe has defended him, but nothing more than a man who's part of the structure of paramilitarism."
Ex-Interior Minister Fernando Londono, who served in Uribe's government, called the verdict "a manifest injustice."
Londono warned that the conviction showed "they are going for President Uribe ... because the DAS didn't answer to any ministry but directly to the president of the republic."