In a bombshell media report last night, Juan Guillermo Monsalve – the ‘star witness’ whose induced jailhouse testimony was the core of the accusations of bribery and witness tampering against former President Alvaro Uribe – contradicted eight separate elements of that testimony in a new hearing on August 24, twenty days after Uribe was arrested without charge.
The revelations raised more questions of the glaring judicial irregularities, violations of due process and unexplained payments, assets and associations connecting those who accused, investigated and arrested Uribe, and raised new calls for his release from detention. The case has been entirely driven by Senator Iván Cepeda, the principal ally of the FARC in Colombia, who visited Monsalve 21 times in prison offering him cash and benefits before finally inducing him to make false accusations against Uribe.
Supreme Court Judge Cesar Reyes had refused to allow Uribe’s defense to cross-examine Monsalve before issuing an arrest warrant without charge against the former president of Colombia. The August 24 hearing, therefore, was the first chance to challenge the “star witness” under oath – and Monsalve crumbled.
Monsalve was confronted with security video footage from the prison which contradicted basic aspects of his testimony to the Supreme Court where he’d alleged in exhaustive detail how he was pressured by attorneys he said came to the prison on Uribe’s behalf. In some cases, the video evidence proved the attorneys hadn’t even met with Monsalve on some occasions he’d told the Supreme Court they had. Confused and hesitant, Monsalve began changing his story and threw the case into further doubt.
The blow to Cepeda’s “star witness” testimony joins a list of indications that the case against Uribe is a legal sham, and that his August 4 arrest without charge was arbitrary and illegal:
- The Supreme Court of Justice opened the investigation of alleged witness tampering and bribery against Uribe in secret on the eve of the 2018 parliamentary elections, without any material evidence to justify it.
- Then-Supreme Court Judge José Luis Barceló issued a falsified warrant in an unrelated case to wiretap Uribe’s phone, in violation of due process. When notified by staff of the irregularity, Barceló ordered the wiretap to continue. Over 20,000 conversations were captured, and Barceló transferred them to the Uribe case file in violation of Article 29 of the Colombian constitution. Ultimately, nothing in the wiretaps showed any wrongdoing by Uribe, but excerpts were selectively leaked to the media to disparage him.
- Reyes received an unreported $200,000 payment through a suspicious contract from the office of then-President Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s chief political enemy, for work linked to the FARC before he joined the Supreme Court. To date, Reyes has refused to comment on the payment but he later hired the Santos official who supervised the mysterious contract to work for him at the high court.
- Reyes has a history of two separate employment relationships with Cepeda’s wife.
- Reyes refused to allow Uribe’s counsel to cross-examine Monsalve or Cepeda, and repeatedly blocked any effort to investigate clear indications that Cepeda destroyed evidence on his own cell phone that could incriminate him for inducing Monsalve’s testimony.
- After Monsalve gave Cepeda the testimony he sought for the Supreme Court in 2018, the witness’ wife gained control of a $123,000 sprawling ranch on 50 acres of rich farmland in Colombia, a transaction now under investigation by the country’s Attorney General’s office. Reyes suppressed evidence that Cepeda had bribed Monsalve in connection with the ranch.
The injustice of Uribe’s arrest and detention without charge is the subject of international monitoring, where the Human Rights Institute for Peace and Freedom last week declared it “has observed evidence of an arbitrary detention” of Uribe “which violates his human rights” and demanded he be guaranteed “his right to trial in freedom and in compliance with the rules of due process.”
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