Colombian ex-spy chief gets stiff prison sentence

Reuters , Thursday 15 Sep 2011

Colombia's former Director of the Administrative Security Department is sentenced to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of a human rights activist and ties to right-wing para-militaries

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Jorge Noguera, director of the DAS, Colombia's secret police, 14 September, 2011 (AP)

In one of the highest-level convictions in Colombia of an official from government of conservative ex-President Alvaro Uribe, former head of internal and external intelligence, Jorge Aurelio Noguera was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday for his involvement in the murder of a rights activist and ties to right-wing paramilitaries.

Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice declared former Director of the Administrative Security Department (DAS) Jorge Aurelio Noguera criminally liable for the murder of a human rights worker and for suppressing documents.

Noguera provided information to right-wing militias in the murder of human rights defender Francisco Correa, according to the testimony of former DAS officials and demobilized paramilitary members.

Noguera was also accused of having links with paramilitary leaders in the north, who have been accused of killing hundreds of civilians in Colombia's war against leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers.

The court additionally barred Noguera, who served as the head of the DAS from August 2002 to October 2005 during Uribe's first term, from public life for 20 years, a court statement said.

The scandal-wracked DAS is Colombia's internal and external security agency. It does everything from granting visas to spying.

Other top DAS officials face investigations into whether they illegally wire-tapped opponents of Uribe when he was president.

Uribe is credited with smashing leftist guerrilla groups, which opened up Latin America's Number 4 oil producer to billions of dollars in foreign investment, as well as getting right-wing paramilitary groups to demobilize.

But since the last years of his presidency, Uribe and his officials have been dogged by scandals ranging from giving supporters agricultural subsidies to killing civilians and then dressing them up as insurgents.

In July the solicitor general's office banned a former agriculture minister, known as "Little Uribe", from public service for 16 years over a subsidy scandal.

"The sentence against Noguera is a key step towards justice in Colombia. What we want to see now is that all those responsible for the crimes committed by the DAS, whoever they are, be promptly brought to justice," said Susan Lee, director of the Americas for Amnesty International.

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