Saturday, April 26, 2008

Plot to Kill Colombian Witness Exposed

Washington Post

The Colombian attorney general's office confirmed Friday that it had uncovered a plot to assassinate a key witness whose testimony has linked several Colombian congressmen, including President Álvaro Uribe's cousin, to death squads.

Authorities on Monday warned Jairo Castillo, 40, a former member of an ultra-right paramilitary group who now lives in Canada, that investigators had determined that two hit men posing as tourists would try to kill him. The attorney general's office then faxed him a warning Tuesday, and Castillo reported the threat to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"I fear for my life," Castillo said by telephone from Canada, saying he believed that those he has testified against, members of the death squads, want him dead. "I know all about the network they use for murdering people," he said.

Police officials in Canada did not return phone calls seeking comment. Officials in the attorney general's office in Bogota confirmed that authorities learned of the plot against Castillo through an analysis of intelligence. José Gilberto Martínez of the witness protection program then alerted Castillo, who lives in Quebec province and has been granted political asylum in Canada.

The plot was uncovered the same week that the attorney general's office arrested former senator Mario Uribe, a political ally of the president. Castillo had accused the politician of having participated in meetings with paramilitary groups in which land grabs were orchestrated.

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