BOGOTA (Reuters) - A judge on Saturday lifted a house arrest order against former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is under investigation for alleged witness tampering.
Uribe has been held under the order since August.
The decision is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle and is likely to disappoint Uribe’s critics, who had hailed the house arrest as a triumph of judicial independence.
“The decision adopted by this official is to agree to the request submitted by the defense, supported by the Attorney General’s Office and the representation of the public prosecutor and as such Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez will be granted his immediate freedom,” said Judge Clara Ximena Salcedo.
“Thank God,” Uribe said in a message on Twitter following the decision.
Following his house arrest order Uribe resigned his senate seat, leading the court to transfer the case to the attorney general’s office, which critics say will be less rigorous.
Critics will blame the outcome on the attorney general’s Office and the way it has handled the case, said political analyst Sergio Guzman of Colombia Risk Analysis.
“The lion’s share of the blame will go to the attorney general’s office and it’s handling of the case,” Guzman told Reuters.
U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the decision in a message on Twitter, calling the polarizing Uribe “a hero.”
“Congratulations to former President @AlvaroUribeVel,” Trump said, tagging Uribe’s Twitter handle.
Uribe and several allies are being investigated over allegations of witness tampering carried out in an attempt to discredit accusations he had ties to right-wing paramilitaries.
Uribe, a mentor to current President Ivan Duque, has insisted he is innocent.
In 2012, Uribe accused leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to tie him to right-wing paramilitary groups.
But in 2018, the Supreme Court said Cepeda had collected information from former fighters as part of his work and had not paid or pressured former paramilitaries. Instead the court said it was Uribe and his allies who pressured witnesses.
Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Aurora Ellis
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