Jorge Noguera Cotes convicted of passing information to paramilitary groups that led to three murders by hired killers
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 September 2011 18.59 BST
The former head of Colombia’s intelligence services has been jailed for 24 years for alleged links to three murders carried out by paramilitary assassins.
Jorge Noguera Cotes, the head of Colombia’s DAS intelligence group between 2002 and 2005, was convicted on Wednesday by the country’s supreme court.
Noguera, a close ally of the former president Alvaro Uribe, was toppled from his post in 2005 after accusations that paramilitary groups had infiltrated the DAS and subsequently arrested in 2007.
Noguera was security chief during the first presidential term of Uribe, who ruled the country from 2002 to 2010.He was also Uribe’s campaign manager when he first won the presidency.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper described Noguera’s sentence, handed down in a closed session, as the most severe given to a former member of Uribe’s administration, which has been dogged by allegations of collusion with paramilitary groups.
According to the newspaper, Uribe has repeatedly defended Noguera, publically describing him as “a good boy”.
“If Noguera is convicted I owe an apology to the country,” Uribe reportedly said in 2007.
But the supreme court judgment reportedly found that Noguera had maintained links to one faction of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a paramilitary group, including one former leader known as “Jorge 40.”
Noguera was accused of passing information to paramilitary group members about the whereabouts of three people who were subsequently murdered.
Among the victims was Alfredo Correa de Andreis, a sociologist and human rights activist. He was gunned down by hired killers, known as sicarios, in September 2004.
Andreis, a university professor who had studied the plight of those displaced by Colombia’s internal conflict, was executed by masked men on a motorbike in the Colombian city of Barranquilla. His bodyguard was also killed.
Under Alvaro Uribe, a lawyer who was born in Medellin and studied at Oxford University, Colombia made major advances in reducing levels of violence.
Uribe won widespread support for improving security in the country and reducing murder rates that once ranked among the highest in the world. A US-backed offensive against Marxist rebels who controlled large swathes of the countryside won accolades for the president. An improved security made Columbia a model to follow for other governments in South America looking to reduce urban and drug-related violence.
But suspicions over ties between Uribe’s allies and the country’s violent paramilitary groups have proved hard to shake off. Earlier this month one former paramilitary chief accused Uribe of backing his group during the 1990s, charges the former president rejects.