U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) sought the assistance of the Department of Justice (DOJ) today to investigate Colombian Sen. Iván Cepeda’s visits to U.S. federal prisons to allegedly pressure inmates to falsely incriminate former President Álvaro Uribe in Colombian judicial proceedings. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Diaz-Balart wrote he seeks to determine whether Cepeda visited U.S. prisons “for the purpose of corruption, interference in judicial proceedings or even suborning perjury”.
Diaz-Balart cited the reported testimony of captured ex-paramilitary Juan Carlos Sierra-Ramirez, alias “El Tuso”, who denounced efforts by Cepeda in 2009 to allegedly obtain false testimony against Uribe in exchange for asylum in Switzerland. The Congressman asked for confirmation of Cepeda’s visits with Sierra-Ramirez and “any other inmates” at U.S. facilities and whether the meetings were “observed, monitored or recorded” by U.S. prison officials, asking that he be provided with any recordings or minutes kept by federal officials.
The Congressman, who sits on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, noted the importance of prosecuting paramilitary and drug trafficking suspects for U.S. crimes as a key aspect of bilateral cooperation, and that the allegations surrounding Cepeda “raise grave concerns which could have serious ramifications for the relationship between the United States and Colombia.”
Former President Uribe has been under arrest without charge for more than two months in Colombia as part of a politically motivated case driven by Cepeda, the principal ally of the FARC in that country. The Uribe case depends on the testimony of a prisoner in a Colombian jail who repeatedly sought benefits through Cepeda while giving what was later shown to be false statements to attempt to incriminate Uribe.
A hearing will be held tomorrow in Colombia to determine whether Uribe’s continued detention is legal. One international human rights organization has said Uribe’s arrest showed “evidence of arbitrary detention” that violated his rights.
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