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Close ally of Colombia's president freed from jail

Close ally of Colombia's president freed from jail

A former senator close to President Alvaro Uribe was freed from prison on Wednesday, four months after his arrest on charges of colluding with far-right death squads.
Mario Uribe was released after Colombia's No. 2 prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to hold him. He remains under investigation, however, and is barred from leaving the country.
Mario Uribe is the most prominent figure in a scandal that has sent 33 current or former national lawmakers to jail on charges of benefiting from ties with the so-called paramilitaries.
Another former lawmaker, William Montes, was also freed Wednesday after a judge determined he was under duress when he signed a 2001 document pledging an alliance with the paramilitaries.
The judge dropped criminal conspiracy charges against Montes, who had been jailed for 15 months.
The paramilitaries formed in the 1980s to defend wealthy ranchers from leftist rebel kidnapping and extortion but evolved into drug-trafficking criminal mafias. Prosecutors blame them for at least 10,000 murders and the theft of millions of acres of prime cropland.
Mario Uribe is a second cousin of the president and he presided over the Senate from 2000-2001. The two launched a political party together in the mid-1980s and have been close allies since.
As he left prison, Mario Uribe denied any relationship with the paramilitaries, whose top leaders President Uribe extradited to the United States in mid-May.
"I never met with paramiltiaries," he said. "I never served them, or promoted the groups, never helped them and they never helped me."
Mario Uribe made headlines in April by seeking refuge in Costa Rica's embassy and requesting asylum to try to avoid arrest.
Wednesday's releases leave 29 congressmen in jail on criminal conspiracy and other charges for alleged ties with the paramilitaries, who demobilized beginning in 2005 under a peace pact with the government.


Updated : 2021-04-13 16:37 GMT+08:00