C.R. Nixes Asylum Request For Cousin of Pres. Uribe

April 25, 2008

Former Colombian legislator Mario Uribe – wanted by the Colombian government for alleged ties to paramilitary death squads – turned himself in this week after Costa Rica refused his request for asylum at its embassy in Bogota.

Uribe, second cousin and adviser of President Alvaro Uribe, went to the Costa Rican Embassy on Tuesday, arguing Colombia lacks due process, according to the nation’s daily El Tiempo. The ex-lawmaker has repeatedly denied ties to the far-right death squads blamed for some of the worst atrocities in Colombia’s civil war.

The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry rejected Uribe’s request for asylum after learning that the prosecutor’s office of Colombia had ordered his arrest for helping paramilitary and armed self-defense groups.

“It was a very simple decision,” President Oscar Arias said.

Arias said he called President Alvaro Uribe to ask how the two men were related, but that they did not discuss the case further.

“If it’s a sovereign decision, we do not have to consult anyone, except our own conscience and laws,” Arias said.

Mario Uribe surrendered to Colombian prosecutors at the embassy, where he had waited nine hours for a reply to his bid for asylum, the Agence France-Presse reported.

He was escorted to a holding facility at the prosecutor’s office.

Allegations against the politician were partly based on the testimony of former paramilitary fighter Jairo Castillo, who claims Uribe met several times with leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to help take over land in northern and northeastern Colombia.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Costa Rica to turn him over.

“It’s utterly absurd for Mario Uribe, one of Colombia’s most powerful politicians, to claim he is somehow a victim who needs asylum,” José Miguel Vivanco, a director at Human Rights Watch, said in a press release.

Like his cousin, President Uribe is also being probed for alleged links to paramilitaries, particularly for his alleged role in planning a 1997 massacre that killed 15 people, the president himself said Wednesday on Colombia’s Radio Caracol.

Earlier, President Uribe said he was in “pain” over his cousin’s arrest, but that he will “assume this pain with patriotism,” AFP reported.

The two governments have cooperated in recent weeks in an investigation into inroads here by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

 

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