Colombian prosecutors to question former army commander over espionage

Bogota, May 4 (efe-epa).- Colombian prosecutors announced Monday that they will interrogate retired Gen. Nicacio Martínez, the chief of the country’s armed forces between 2018-2019, on a scandal over spying on journalists, politicians and human rights activists.

“Retired General Nicacio Martínez, who was commander of the National Army at the time of the incidents under investigation, will be summoned for questioning,” Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a statement read to the media without specifying the date of the judicial proceedings.

According to an investigative report published on Friday by the magazine, Semana, members of the army spied on Colombian and foreign journalists, including US media correspondents such as Nick Casey of The New York Times and Juan Forero of the Wall Street Journal between February and December of 2019.

The documents also mention John Otis, Latin America correspondent for National Public Radio and a consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists, photojournalist Lynsey Addario and photographer Stephen Ferry.

The Attorney General’s Office said that it had been investigating the case since January when Semana published another report in which it alleged that Martinez was removed as the army’s commander in December 2019 for illegal military wiretapping of politicians, judges, generals and journalists.

“Since Jan. 16, 2020, with the information provided by the print media, the delegate unit to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Office of the Attorney General opened an inquiry into the offenses of unlawful violation of communications and illicit use of transmitting or receiving equipment,” it added.

Barbosa said that the information published on Friday, “revealing other wrongdoings, will be incorporated into the public prosecutor’s investigation before the Supreme Court of Justice.”

“Under these circumstances, people deemed necessary to clarify what happened were ordered to be questioned,” he added without giving details about who will appear before the authorities.

In a statement released on Monday night by his lawyer, Jaime Granados, Martínez said that he had never issued an order of “monitoring, interception, drawing up of lists or intelligence operations against journalists, politicians, judges, senior government members or any other person representing an institution of the State.”

“I do not know whether the incidents recounted by the magazine, Semana, in several of its publications happened at another level covertly. If I had known about it, I would have been the first to report it. The only thing I’m sure of is that if any act was committed in that sense it was not carried out by the army as an institution, let alone endorsed by its commander,” he added.

Martinez also said that if the authorities have launched a probe due to what was published by Semana, “this corresponds to the duty of a democratic State”, but added that “these investigations were opened on the basis of the publications of the magazine and not on evidence that proves” that was being said was true.

Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced Monday that General Martinez will no longer be appointed Colombia’s military attaché to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an appointment that had been scheduled since the beginning of the year but had been delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Trujillo did not give any more details on the decision regarding Martinez, under scrutiny for his human rights policy when he was military chief. EFE-EPA


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