Fri, Jul 27, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Former Colombian president accuses MI6 of phone tap

FRAUD INVESTIGATION:Alvaro Uribe resigned from the Senate on Tuesday after the Supreme Court asked him to testify in a criminal case that could result in imprisonment

Reuters, BOGOTA

Jaime Granados, lawyer of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, is on Wednesday surrounded by journalists at the Colombian Supreme Court in Bogota after Uribe was called to testify before the court.

Photo: Reuters

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday accused Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) spy agency of participating in a plot against him, a day after resigning his Senate seat to face a bribery and fraud investigation by the Supreme Court.

Uribe, a mentor of Colombian president-elect Ivan Duque, is under investigation by the court over allegations that he made false accusations and tampered with witnesses in a case that he himself started by making similar accusations against a leftist senator.

Known for a hardline military crackdown on Marxist guerrillas during his 2002-to-2010 government, Uribe cited on Twitter what he said were claims that recordings in the case were made by MI6.

“There are repeated accusations that the recordings were made by the British agency MI6, friends of Juan Manuel Santos. Foreign authorities in a ruse against me,” Uribe said.

He did not specify exactly which recordings he was referring to or the source of the accusations.

However, in a statement on Tuesday, the Supreme Court referenced intercepted telephone calls between a lawyer and a former official that it said had plotted to undermine the case against Uribe.

A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office declined to comment on Uribe’s tweet.

MI6, which is accountable to UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt, did not respond to calls requesting comment.

Uribe originally tweeted that it was the British Security Service (MI5), the domestic intelligence service, which was involved, before correcting himself.

A spokeswoman for Santos declined to comment.

Santos was once a close ally of Uribe until they had a bitter falling out over a peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that resulted in a 2016 deal signed by Santos to end their five-decade uprising.

Uribe resigned his Senate seat on Tuesday after the Supreme Court asked him to testify in the criminal case, which could result in jail time.

It is the first time that the tribunal, which is charged with investigating criminal allegations against lawmakers, has called a former president to testify.

The 66-year-old is seen as the power behind the throne of Duque, 41, who won last month’s presidential election as the candidate for Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Center party.

Uribe’s exit from the Senate just two weeks before Duque’s Aug. 7 inauguration could throw the new government into disarray. It also removes from Congress a vocal critic of the peace deal who had called for tougher treatment of former FARC rebels.

The case that spurred the Supreme Court investigation began in 2012, when Uribe accused leftist Colombian Senator Ivan Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to falsely link him to right-wing paramilitary groups. Uribe denies any such ties.

However, the court in February said that Cepeda had collected information from former members of paramilitary groups in the course of his Senate work and that he had not paid or pressured them.

Instead, it was Uribe who was at fault, the court said.

The activities continued even after the February ruling, the court said in its Tuesday statement.

Cepeda hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to press Uribe to testify.

“This decision marks a historic milestone in the judicial and political life of the nation,” he told reporters. “Uribe was considered untouchable and all-powerful until yesterday. This marks a very important precedent.”

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