Judge orders former Colombian president freed from house arrest

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (AP) – Powerful ex-Colombia President Álvaro Uribe was ordered freed from house arrest on Saturday while he is investigated for possible witness tampering, the latest chapter in a case that has revealed lingering tensions over the country’s peace process.

The nation’s Supreme Court had ordered Uribe detained in August during the probe, shocking Colombians and unleashing protests in favour and against the decision. He was the first president in Colombia’s recent history to be ordered placed on house arrest.

But municipal Judge Clara Salcedo ruled on Saturday during a virtual hearing that the prior ruling could not be upheld under a new legal framework under which Uribe is being investigated since resigning his Senate seat after his detention.

“Thank Goodness,” Uribe wrote on Twitter as the decision was read.

The decision can be appealed but Uribe was immediately ordered released.

The Supreme Court argued in its 1,554-page decision in August that there was ample evidence to show Uribe had engaged in trying to pressure former paramilitaries into retracting damaging statements against the ex-president.

But the high court later relinquished control of the case when Uribe resigned his Senate seat, handing it to the chief prosecutor’s office.

Magistrates have since ruled that Uribe should be tried under a different legal framework designed for ordinary citizens, paving the way for his release.

The former president’s lawyer argued that because Uribe is only under investigation and has not been charged he should be freed. Prosecutor Gabriel Ramon Jaimes agreed, telling the judge he believed that Uribe’s due process rights had been violated, but he has stressed that the investigation continues.