On Tuesday, Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered former President Alvaro Uribe to be placed under house arrest while he is under investigation for bribing and manipulating witnesses who were to testify against him.
The home confinement of former President Uribe was unanimously defined. The current Senator will serve his term of imprisonment in his country house in the province of Córdoba. From there, he will be able to continue his defense with all the guarantees of the right to due process, according to the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice.
Uribe has repeatedly declared his innocence in the case and questioned the independence of the court.
The court decided on the pretrial detention after concluding that there is a possibility of obstruction of justice regarding the future collection of evidence of allegedly criminal acts involving Senator Álvaro Uribe and representative Álvaro Hernán Prada Artunduaga.
“Senator Uribe will be confined to his residence, from where he can continue to mount his defense,” the court confirmed.
“The deprivation of my freedom causes me deep sadness for my wife, my family, and for the Colombians who still believe that I have done something good for the country,” Uribe wrote on Twitter before the court published its decision.
La privación de mi libertad me causa profunda tristeza por mi señora, por mi familia y por los colombianos que todavía creen que algo bueno he hecho por la Patria
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 4, 2020
The former Colombian president has been in a long-running confrontation with leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda. Cepeda claims that Uribe was a founding member of a right-wing paramilitary group during the civil conflicts of the 1990s that plagued the entire country. Clashes between government forces, leftist rebels, and right-wing gangs left thousands of people dead and missing.
Uribe denounced Cepeda in 2012 for slander and plotting against him and his circle. He also accused him of looking for false witnesses to testify against him.
In 2018, the court ruled that Cepeda had collected information from former combatants as part of his work and had not paid or pressured former paramilitaries. Paradoxically, it ruled that Alvaro Uribe and his allies had bribed and manipulated the witnesses.
Uribe and legislator Álvaro Hernán Prada face prison terms of up to 12 years.
For the time being, the former president will have to wait for the investigation to progress, confined to his home from which he cannot leave.
The news triggered significant repercussions in Colombia. It is the first time in the country’s history that a former president has been sentenced to prison.
Uribe remains a dominant voice in a highly fragmented national political scene.
Critics of Uribe praised the Supreme Court for its performance and for continuing to pursue the charges against him.
Supporters of the former president, including current President Ivan Duque, denounced the court as symptomatic of political persecution. “It hurts, as a Colombian, that many who have hurt the country with atrocities are defending themselves freely. … And that an exemplary public servant who has occupied the highest position in the state cannot,” Duque said, as reported by AP News.
The bad news for Uribe does not seem to end. Just hours after learning of his remand sentence, he received confirmation that he and his children had contracted the CCP Virus. According to Reuters, neither he nor his family have severe symptoms and would not receive hospital care for the time being.