Ex-spy chief wanted in Colombia for wiretaps surrenders

Bogota (Colombia): The former head of Colombia's intelligence agency ended several years on the run and surrendered to face charges of spying on opponents of former President Alvaro Uribe.

Maria del Pilar Hurtado late Friday turned herself over to authorities in Panama, where she fled in 2010. She was taken on a pre-dawn flight to Bogota, where a judge ordered her to be jailed at the chief prosecutor's
office while charges are considered.

Chief prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre said Hurtado was being processed for at least five offences that could bring 15
to 20 years in prison for a conviction. He said he would urge Hurtado to cooperate and reveal "who gave the order for the illegal wiretapping."

The accusations against the spy chief threaten to further tarnish the legacy of Uribe, for years the United States'
staunchest ally in Latin America and credited with crushing leftist rebels once dominant across large swaths of the
country.

Hurtado has never implicated the former president in any wrongdoing. As head of the now-defunct DAS spy agency, she oversaw a scandal-ridden institution whose agents seemed unrestrained in their use of illegal wiretaps to monitor politicians, human rights defenders, journalists and even Supreme Court justices who opposed the former conservative leader.

Dozens of DAS officials, including one of Hurtado's predecessors, have been convicted of illegal spying and providing assistance to right-wing paramilitary death squads.

When President Juan Manuel Santos took office in 2010, he immediately disbanded the DAS and pursued charges against
several of its former officials. Hurtado was granted asylum in Panama in 2010. But the Central American country's Supreme Court ruled last year that the decision giving her refuge was unconstitutional.

Her case before Colombia's Supreme Court is among several investigations that Uribe says Santos has launched against
some of his former aides.

While serving as Uribe's defence minister, Santos oversaw the military offensive that was credited with bringing down
one of the world's highest murder and kidnapping rates. But the two men are now archenemies, with Uribe accusing
Santos of jeopardising security gains in his bid to strike a peace deal with leftist rebels.

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