BOGOTA (Reuters) - The former head of Colombia’s intelligence service was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Thursday for spying on opposition lawmakers, judges and journalists in one of the biggest scandals to mar the government of ex-President Alvaro Uribe.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, 51, headed the now-defunct Administrative Security Department (DAS) intelligence service from 2007 to 2008, which was shut down following the scandal and replaced with a new intelligence entity.
Hurtado received political asylum in Panama in 2010, but the Panamanian government revoked it last year. She surrendered to authorities in January, hours after Interpol released an international order for her arrest.
The former spymaster was tried in absentia for illegally intercepting phone calls and abuse of public office, among other crimes. Separately, Bernardo Moreno, one of Uribe’s aides, was given an eight year sentence for his involvement, to be served at his home.
Uribe, who led an aggressive military offensive against Marxist rebels during his 2002-2010 presidency, has denied any involvement in illegal activity at DAS. He is now a senator and the head of a right-wing opposition party.
Two-thirds of Uribe’s closest political allies during his presidency, including ex-cabinet ministers, have been convicted, sanctioned or investigated for crimes ranging from corruption to hacking.
Uribe says the string of convictions are an effort by his political opponents to persecute him. President Juan Manuel Santos, once Uribe’s defense minister, infuriated the former leader when he succeeded him, by opening peace talks with the leftist FARC rebels after decimating their ranks on the battlefield.
Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Murphy and David Gregorio