Ex-president’s brother Santiago Uribe is accused of leading paramilitary group
Santiago Uribe, brother of former president Álvaro Uribe, is being held in Medellín on charges of aggravated murder and conspiracy. Uribe was brought in on February 29.
The rancher, 58, is accused of playing a leading role in paramilitary group the “12 Apostles”, which operated in Antioquia in the 1990s.
What is the 12 Apostles?
Originally formed as a self defence group by local businessmen and landowners, the 12 Apostles became an armed group that has been accused of carrying out “social cleansing” and connected to 163 murders.
In a book entitled ‘El Clan de los 12 Apóstoles’, journalist Olga Behar documents reports and witness testimonies about the group that operated in several municipalities of Antioquia between 1990-1998.
While investigators are in no doubt of the existence of the group, they have struggled to persecute those responsible, with reports putting the level of impunity at 99%.
Due to the seriousness of the crimes under investigation, the prosecution has 180 days to analyse the case and decide whether it will go to trial.
The high profile proceedings are complicated for a number of reasons – not least that the events took place two decades ago and a number of those involved have died.
The case centres around allegations that he ordered the murder of bus driver Camilo Durán Barrientos, who was shot several times on the side of a road on February 25, 1994. This murder is the cornerstone of a wider investigation into the group’s activities.
There are several witness testimonies, including retired police chief Juan Carlos Meneses and Eunicio Pineda.
Meneses, who is himself accused of ordering the hit on Barrientos and of being a member of the paramilitary group, has repeatedly accused Santiago Uribe of being the creator of the 12 Apostles.
In a 2014 letter to VerdadAbierta.com, Meneses claimed his participation in the organisation was under threat of death, and said, “My complaint is clear in stating that it was Santiago Uribe who ordered the death of Camilo Barrientos.”
Pineda, who says he has been tortured because of what he saw from the neighbouring farm, reports that Uribe’s Yarumal ranch, La Carolina, was a base for the Apostles’ activities and used as a training camp.
This is not the first time that these accusations have been made. Uribe was questioned in 1993 and 1994, but the case was closed in 1999 due to lack of evidence. It was reopened in 2012 as a result of Meneses’ testimony.
Uribe’s defence deny all the allegations and claim that he is being persecuted because of his relation to the former president.
Álvaro Uribe lashed out at everybody connected to the case against his brother, from President Santos to Attorney General Montealegre and Venezuelan President Maduro.
In a lengthy document published on twitter, the former president goes on to denounce each of the witnesses and lawyers involved. He accuses the “false witness” Meneses of lying and of being involved in drug trafficking, and says that Pineda is mentally ill.
He describes his brother as a “political prisoner” and says “he has endured 20 years of persecution and torture for being my brother.”