June 26th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Maria del Pilar Hurtado, former director of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS) under the government of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), who allegedly used her office to conduct wiretaps on some 300 journalists, judges, and opposition figures, could seek political asylum in Costa Rica after Panama revoked her refugee status, a report by Diario Extra warns.
The newspaper admits, however, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and immigration officials reported that they were unaware of an asylum request by Hurtado. Diario Extra, which expressed its concern over the possibility of Hurtado being permitted in the country, was itself the victim of warrantless collection of its reporters’ telephone records by the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), which was revealed in January.
In Colombia, Hurtado allegedly used her office to conduct wiretaps on some 300 Colombian journalists, judges, and opposition figures during her time as director of the DAS.
On October 24th, 2008 Hurtado stepped down from her post after allegations that the agency had conducted surveillance on Senator Gustavo Petro and other left-wing political opponents of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. The incident has been dubbed The Colombian Watergate, in reference to the Watergate scandal in the United States involving President Richard Nixon. The allegations were later admitted to be true after internal memos were anonymously received by Senator Petro. One of the memos ordered that information be gathered on Petro’s “contacts with people who offer to testify against the government.”. Hurtado said that she at no time had received or given any instructions linked to the incidents that were made public, and that she was stepping down to preserve the honour of the agency.
Hurtado was called to testify about her actions by prosecutors in Colombia, but instead fled to Panama in November 2010.
Hurtado allegedly received the protection of Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, who had granted Hurtado political asylum in the country, according to Panama’s La Prensa.
However, Panama’s Supreme Court of Justice dismissed Hurtado’s refugee status in May 29th of this year, ordering that her status be revoked on June 18th. Hurtado however, appears to remain in Panama illegally.
Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, has requested Hurtado’s extradition and the Colombian Attorney General has issued an arrest warrant through Interpol.