EL ESPECTADOR, July 30, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Now a senator, Uribe has reiterated that he never ordered the DAS to commit illegal acts. Testimony in a suit filed by Iván Velásquez against the Colombian government, a suit he just won, connects the former President with the stalking and illegal wiretaps carried out by the DAS against the Supreme Court of Justice.

An old ghost of the Uribe era came back to life with a decision by the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal: the illegal actions carried out by the DAS, which in all of its existence was the President’s secret police, against the Supreme Court of Justice. “There was no legitimate reason to justify the intelligence activities that were advanced against the Supreme Court of Justice,” concluded the Tribunal. “There was no motive for obtaining files or recording sessions of the Full Chamber,” added the Court. It had no doubt that all of those illegal activities were “the agency’s responsibility.”

The Tribunal was deciding a suit filed by former Auxiliary Justice of the Supreme Court Iván Velásquez, along with his family, against the Colombian government for the illegal stalking and persecution of which he claimed to be a victim in then-President Uribe’s second term. In 2006, Velásquez was considered to be one of the most important officials in the high court. The “parapolitica”[1] had recently been uncovered, and the mantle of that scandal had started to cover people from the Congress such as Érik Morris, Dieb Maloof, Álvaro Araújo, and Muriel Benito Rebollo; and Velásquez, from the Court, was the coordinator of the investigations.

The “parapolitica”, as is now well known, produced a breaking point between President Álvaro Uribe and the Supreme Court,, especially after it was revealed that one of the people being investigated was his cousin, Mario Uribe Escobar, who ended up convicted in 2011 and sentenced to seven years and six months in prison because of his connections with paramilitary groups. And Velasquez was trapped in that train crash then, as the court recognizes now; he was the victim of illegal stalking and of a campaign of disparagement orchestrated through the DAS apparatus and with the knowledge of a man who was one of former President Uribe’s right-hand men: Bernardo Moreno.

“The Director of Administration in the President’s Office (Moreno) was aware of the intelligence operations that were being carried out with regard to the Supreme Court,” states the decision. Moreno was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to eight years in prison for the stalking and illegal wiretapping that was done by the DAS against opponents of the government, Justices, journalists, and lawyers, among others. María del Pilar Hurtado, former Director of the DAS, was sentenced in 2015 to 14 years in prison for the same acts. Former President Uribe, for his part, has maintained that he never ordered the commission of crimes.

The suit filed by Velásquez, however, includes several sworn statements that at the very least put Uribe’s version in question with respect to the Ali Baba’s cave that the DAS became during his administration. (The scandal was so serious that in 2011 the DAS was liquidated.) For example, Martha Leal, the former Deputy Director of Intelligence Operations at the DAS between 2005 and 2009—who was sentenced to seven years in prison for the same things—admitted to the prosecutors that “the DAS ended up being used for the problem that existed between the President and the Supreme Court.”

There was also testimony by one of the protagonists of the whole story: Alba Luz Flórez Gelves, who entered the nation’s history with the sobriquet of Mata Hari. She was a DAS detective and she infiltrated the Supreme Court and turned two employees of the Court’s general services practically into “spies”. They ended up placing hidden recording equipment in the room where the Justices of the high court gather for their conferences. In 2014 in spite of her conviction for the scandal, she obtained a decision returning her to the DAS and awarding damages, but the Council of State overturned the decision in the same year.

Mata Hari was the one who recruited the chauffeur of the then-coordinator of the investigations into the “parapolitica”, Iván Velásquez, and his chauffeur also turned into an informant. With those “spies”, Flórez Gelves had access to information about “possible arrests for ‘parapolitica’ that the Court had ordered, copies of the files being prepared by the Supreme Court of Justice, tape recordings of the private statements of witnesses that were taken on the 9th floor of the agency (where Velásquez’s office was located) and the telephone numbers of the Justices who were carrying out the ‘parapolitica’ investigation.”

Gustavo Sierra Prieto, another former DAS official, told prosecutors that they started looking for information about the Supreme Court when Andrés Peñate was Director of the agency, in 2006. Peñate, who was connected to the investigation but has not been convicted, has always denied any participation in the illegal schemes that the DAS was involved in. Sierra Prieto said that the DAS performed “strategic analysis” with all of the data collected, and that they turned it over to Bernardo Moreno, Secretary General of the President’s Office. He was also the head of the Department of Administration of the President’s Office (Dapre in Spanish).

Attached to the lawsuit there were also interrogatories furnished by Fernando Tabares, former Director of Intelligence for the DAS. The details that he related were even more incriminating with respect to the Uribe administration. He related that, in 2007, he met at a club with María del Pilar Hurtado—who fled to Panamá, supported by former President Uribe, when she started being investigated—and Bernardo Moreno.  “Moreno told them that the President’s interest was that the DAS keep him informed about four principal aspects, including the Supreme Court of Justice.”

With all of these elements on the table, the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal concluded that Iván Velásquez, his wife, and his children were victims of illegal stalking by the DAS. The only issue argued by Velásquez where he lost was the claim about Tasmania: in October of 2007, the President’s office issued a press release warning that the former paramilitary José Orlando Moncada, alias Tasmania, had sent a letter to the President’s Office where he accused Velásquez of visiting him in prison to offer him benefits in return for testimony against Álvaro Uribe.

The one who travelled to Medellín to get Moncada’s letter was Martha Leal, and the one she gave it to was Attorney Sergio Álvarez who, at that time, was defending Mario Uribe, then-President Uribe’s cousin. In the end, Tasmania retracted his story and Velásquez alleged that it was a plot against him. The Tribunal agreed that a press release issued by the President, in which he connected him with a plan to purchase a witness, would have “the capacity to affect the plaintiff’s honor and good name,” but that, in the end, Velásquez could not demonstrate how that was a plan to disparage him. In all of the rest of his claims, the Tribunal found that the responsibility of the DAS and of the Dapre had been proved.

[1] “Parapolitica” refers to the close connections between paramilitary organizations and public officials.

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