Colombian Supreme Court orders house arrest for ex-president Uribe

Colombia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday placed former president and current senator Alvaro Uribe under house arrest as he faces charges of fraud and witness tampering.

The conservative Uribe, who served as president from 2002-2010, is the country’s most popular politician and political mentor to President Ivan Duque.

The court said in a statement that Uribe will be detained at home “and from there can mount his defense with all the guarantees of due process.”

On Tuesday, the court held a hearing into his case, in which Uribe is accused of using his position as a senator to tamper with a witness.

“Being deprived of my freedom is very sad for me, my wife, my family and for the Colombians who still think I did something good for the homeland,” Uribe tweeted.

Uribe, 68, must now wait to be eventually called for a trial before the Supreme Court, the body that judges lawmakers.

He faces bribery and procedural fraud charges and could serve up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Uribe has always insisted on his innocence and enjoys strong popular support due to his hardline stance in fighting the country’s leftist guerrillas, especially the once-powerful Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

His successor, Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018), reached a peace deal with the FARC in 2016 — a deal that Uribe and Duque have heavily criticized.

The right-wing politician was questioned by judges in October 2019 — the first time a former president had appeared before Colombia’s highest court.

In 2012, Uribe filed a complaint against leftist senator Ivan Cepeda, who Uribe says hatched a plot to falsely link him to paramilitary groups.

But in 2018, the court instead opened a witness tampering investigation against Uribe.

Duque fiercely defended his mentor in a video posted on social media, saying that he believes in the ex-president’s “innocence and honorability.”

Uribe also faces accusations of being linked with right-wing paramilitaries — privately funded anti-rebel armed groups accused of widespread human rights abuses.