(AFP) – Apr 23, 2008
BOGOTA (AFP) — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe denied Wednesday charges he helped plan a 1997 massacre by right-wing paramilitaries, while confirming that his role was being examined in an official investigation.
Uribe said the charges were lodged by a former member of the paramilitary, whom he described as a disgruntled convict with an axe to grind.
"He said I was at a meeting with him ... along with various generals in La Caucana, taking part in planning the massacre at Aro," in which 15 people were killed, Uribe told Colombian broadcaster Radio Caracol.
But Uribe said he had proof of his innocence of the charges, and lashed out at justice officials for following up the accusations against "honorable people."
The Supreme Court investigation into links between politicians and the right wing paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia has been going on since 2006, since documents were discovered on the computer of a leader of the group which indicated the existence of alliances with legislators, governors and other officials.
The investigation has linked 62 current and former politicians to the paramilitaries; 31 have been jailed so far.
The current president of Colombia's federal legislature, Nancy Gutierrez, is among the officials currently under investigation for alleged paramilitary ties.
The issue of Uribe's alleged links to the murderous group has led to US lawmakers holding up the Colombia-US free trade pact.
Uribe revealed the existence of the investigation one day after his cousin, former senator Mario Uribe, sought, but was denied, political asylum in Costa Rica's embassy here.
Mario Uribe on Tuesday asked the embassy for protection after Colombian prosecutors ordered his arrest for alleged ties to right-wing paramilitaries.
He presided over Colombia's senate until October 2007, when a Supreme Court investigation uncovered information linking him to land purchases from the paramilitaries.
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