BUCARAMANGA, Colombia (AP) — Authorities in Colombia on Friday moved to drop charges against conservative former President Álvaro Uribe over witness tampering allegations for which he was detained for two months last year.
The prosecutor in the case asked a judge to end the criminal proceedings, finding no evidence the former president committed a crime. Uribe had been accused of bribing a former paramilitary member to retract damaging allegations against him.
“Thank God for this positive step,” said Uribe, who was president between 2002 and 2010, in a tweet after the decision was announced.
Prosecutors said they would detail their reasons for the decision at a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing before a judge, who can decide whether to accept the motion. The judge’s eventual ruling could be appealed by Uribe or by other parties to the case.
The origins of the case can be traced back to 2012, when Sen. Iván Cepeda made allegations in Congress about Uribe’s ties to paramilitaries. Such groups were organized by landowners to fight leftist guerrillas, but often engaged in kidnapping, murder and extortion.
The South American nation remains divided over who should be held to account for decades of violence that only diminished with a 2016 peace accord with the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC.
Uribe’s supporters include President Iván Duque, a man groomed for leadership by Uribe and whose denunciations of his mentor’s detention last year put pressure on a judicial system that has struggled with internal corruption over the years.
As president, Uribe was known as an austere hardliner whose U.S.-backed military successes against rebels made him hugely popular. But since early in his career, he was accused of links to illegal paramilitary groups.
Uribe’s detention in 2020 came as part of an investigation into allegations he was involved in a scheme to sway jailed ex-paramilitaries into testifying in his favor and to say they had submitted false statements against him to support Cepeda’s allegations.
Cepeda responded to the new motion by saying he will file a complaint against the prosecutor for alleged obstruction of justice, accusing him of serving “as Álvaro Uribe’s de facto defense attorney.”
The main witness against Uribe is an ex-paramilitary member who is son of a butler at the hacienda owned by the former president’s family.
While in prison, the man claimed that a paramilitary group had been formed at the hacienda and he told the Supreme Court that one of Uribe’s lawyers tried to pressure him to change his testimony against the former president.
Uribe’s defense denied the accusations, saying the man had been manipulated by Cepeda.
Uribe’s attorney, Jaime Granados, on Friday told a radio station that the prosecutor’s decision was “autonomous and independent work. Of course, we see that truth and justice are making their way.”