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Álvaro Uribe settles scores with the press on air as new cases are filed against the ex-head of state linked to "Dasgate"

(RSF/IFEX) - On 30 November 2010, some 40 people – including Radio Nizkor journalist Claudia Julieta Duque – filed complaints against former president Alvaro Uribe linked to his alleged responsibility in the "Dasgate" illegal phone-tapping, threats and sabotage attributed to the intelligence services.

Uribe is due to appear before a special congressional committee which will allow him to escape more serious legal consequences.

This scandal that engulfed the Administration Department of Security (DAS), to which Reporters Without Borders devoted a mission report, has seen another new development with a case being brought, this time in Belgium on 29 November, by a score of organisations, including the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and Oxfam Solidarity, and a number of individuals, in connection with phone-tapping carried out in that country by Colombian intelligence. RSF offers its support to these plaintiffs and hopes that the Belgian justice system will be able to question the former president. We believe that the scale of the activities carried out by the DAS calls for an international investigation.

Former DAS director, María del Pilar Hurtado, the chief potential witness to the former head of state's involvement in the corruption of this top intelligence service, has just conveniently obtained political asylum in Panama. While denying discussing her asylum request with her, Uribe himself confirmed that he advised his close associates to seek asylum abroad in a long interview he gave yesterday to RCN radio, in which he answered questions from his former vice-president Francisco Santos, among others.

The former head of state argued that there was a "lack of guarantees" on the part of Colombia's highest judicial bodies – particularly the Supreme Court – to justify what appears to us as outright contempt on his part towards legal institutions. Uribe even dared to talk about "bankruptcy of the state of law and justice under media pressure". He seized the chance to settle scores with journalist and media victims of the DAS scandal, repeating accusations that he made publicly while still in office. He said of Daniel Coronell, director of news programmes on the public news channel Noticias Uno, who was forced into exile several times because of threats: "I never went looking for Daniel Coronell. I just had some differences with him that I expressed publicly," said Uribe, playing it down in the RCN interview.

To counterbalance the effect of the Panamanian exile of the former DAS director, Uribe cited the case of former Telesur journalist William Parra, who is facing a belated and dubious case for "collusion" with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. "This man seems to have fled to Venezuela," said Uribe sarcastically. Parra does in fact live in Venezuela where he has obtained refugee status.

Uribe also denied he had "gone after" Hollman Morris, producer of the programme Contravía, who also sought exile several times. The former president leveled accusations against Morris of having "breached security" when covering the release of FARC hostages and having "falsely" accused his government of "pressure" to ensure that Morris did not get a visa for the United States.

"Alvaro Uribe cannot hope to avoid questions about the DAS scandal and the political consequences of his democratic security policy by settling scores in this way. We would also point out that this kind of diatribe against the press during his double mandate was very often followed by threats, emanating from the paramilitaries or DAS, which drove journalists to seek exile abroad. The former president should answer before the courts and not by means of polemic via the media", RSF said.

Click here to listen to Uribe's interview (Spanish only)
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