The former director of the now-defunct Administrative Department of Security (DAS in Spanish) of Colombia, Jorge Noguera Cotes, will not be trialed for two charges related to the so-called “chuzadas” scandal, which involved the illegal wire tapping of journalists, politicians and opposition leaders during the administration of President Álvaro Uribe, according to several publications.
The Supreme Court of Justice in Colombia decided to eliminate the charges for illegal violation of communications and illegal use of broadcasting and receiving equipment citing the penal code's statutes of limitations, which sets deadlines to investigate criminal cases, according to news magazine Semana.
According to the court, Colombia's prosecutor's office presented the charges against Noguera until July 21, 2012, a few weeks after the June 25, 2012 deadline, the Foundation for Freedom of the Press said.
Noguera Cotes will stil be trialed but is only being charged for aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime and abuse of authority in relation to acts allegedly committed abroad, newspaper El Espectador reported.
The court's decision comes four years after the scandal became public. The FLIP considered it “a setback and a great example of the impunity freedom of expression face."
Noguera will be trialed for his alleged participation in the persecution against journalists and members of the political opposition between March 2003 and Oct. 26, 2005, using a specialized intelligence team he created known as G-3, FLIP said. Some of the journalists the country's prosecutor's office has proven that were surveillance targets were Alfredo Molano, Carlos Lozano, Ramiro Bejarano, Hollman Morris and Claudia Julieta Duque.
Noguera Cotes was barred from running for public office for 20 years after being found guilty of those crimes, news agency Colprensa reported. Noguera is also being investigated for the alleged psychological torture of journalist Claudia Julieta Duque. Seven former DAS officials have been sentenced and imprisoned in relation to that case.
In another September 2011 case, Noguera Cotes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime, El Espectador reported. He was found guilty of being a co-author in the homicide of sociologist and professor Alfredo Correa, the newspaper said.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.