Former Colombian Spy Chief Jorge Noguera Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

A former director of Colombia's domestic intelligence agency was sentenced to 25 years in prison for scheming with illegal far-right militias.

The country's Supreme Court convicted Jorge Noguera, who had been chief of the Administrative Department of Security, known as the DAS. He had served under former President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2005.

Prosecutors tried Noguera in connection with the killing of leftist activists and labor union leaders and said he had shared lists of the activists with right-wing death squads. The court announced its verdict Wednesday but didn't release a written decision.

Noguera resigned from the DAS in 2005 amid reports that the agency was infiltrated by the illegal militias, known as paramilitaries. Shortly after his resignation, Uribe stirred more criticism by appointing Noguera as Colombia's consul-general in Milan, Italy.

The conviction tightens pressure on Uribe, who has steadfastedly defended his former spy chief while watching other allies come under legal scrutiny.

Uribe's Twitter account posted a message Wednesday responding to the verdict: "I have trusted him, if he had committed an offense, it pains me and I offer apologies to the citizenry."

Noguera, who has denied the charges, was also found guilty of destroying and hiding public documents. He was ordered to pay a fine of about $1.9 million and another $89,000 to the relatives of college professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis, who was murdered by paramilitaries in 2004.

Correa had been investigating the paramilitaries' role in the forced displacement of farmers in the country's Caribbean region.

The conviction was one of the strongest repudiations so far of the government's actions in a counterinsurgency that targeted the leftist guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other rebels.

Documents found in the computer of a paramilitary and testimony from former DAS officials showed Noguera delivering to paramilitaries names of union members and activists.

The high court, however, absolved Noguera of aggravated homicide in connection with the deaths of journalist Zully Codina Perez and politician Fernando Pisciotti Vanstrhalen, both of whom were killed by gunmen in late 2003.

Leftist congressman Ivan Cepeda said it was "very telling that ex-President Alvaro Uribe has defended with so much insistence this official."

Cepeda said the conviction "isn't dealing with any upright and honest official, as ex-President Uribe has defended him, but nothing more than a man who's part of the structure of paramilitarism."

Ex-Interior Minister Fernando Londono, who served in Uribe's government, called the verdict "a manifest injustice."

Londono warned that the conviction showed "they are going for President Uribe ... because the DAS didn't answer to any ministry but directly to the president of the republic."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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