Colombia attorney general asks, again, to shelve case against ex-president Uribe

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Colombia's former president Alvaro Uribe reacts to the media after his meeting with President-elect Gustavo Petro in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's attorney general's office said on Monday it would again request a judge's approval to shelve a bribery and fraud case against former President Alvaro Uribe, the latest salvo in a deeply polarizing and long-running investigation.

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 has always denied the allegations.

The attorney general's office had previously asked to curtail the probe, after it said it found Uribe's conduct did not constitute a crime. But in April a judge denied the request, saying there existed a possible case of bribery.

The office said in a statement on Monday it has conducted additional investigations requested by that judge.

"In relation to the investigation that continues against Alvaro Uribe Velez for the crimes of bribery to witnesses and procedural fraud ... the acts of investigation, suggested by Judge 28 of the Bogota circuit who previously denied the request for preclusion, have been carried out," the statement said.

Prosecutor Javier Fernando Cardenas' team has taken 14 declarations, interviewed Uribe and carried out forensic inspections of digital material and electronics, the statement said.

"The prosecutor in charge, with total autonomy and independence and attentive to criteria of legal impartiality and probatory objectivity, considers that the grounds for preclusion have been met," it added.

Cardenas will present the information in an eventual hearing, the statement said.

The case stems from a 2012 allegation by Uribe, who accused leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to tie him to paramilitaries.

But in 2018 the Supreme Court said Cepeda had collected information from former fighters as part of his work and had not paid them, and that instead it was Uribe and allies who pressured witnesses.

Uribe's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment, while Cepeda's office said it did not yet have comment.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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