Colombian police interrupt drug kingpin hearing, cite escape plans
Colombian police halted a hearing Thursday for a notorious drug trafficker who was arrested late last year, saying they had found plans for a possible escape.
According to an official statement, the police ordered the "temporary suspension" of the hearing of Dairo Antonio Usuga, also known as "Otoniel," before the Truth Commission, an extrajudicial body investigating a decades-long conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended with a 2016 peace agreement.
The statement said police were forced to take this unusual step because, "irresponsibly, the exact description of the place of detention of this individual was made public."
In addition, "human sources and information gathered by the intelligence services... warned of plans by the Clan del Golfo to try to organize his escape," the statement said, referring to the drug trafficking group Otoniel led before his capture.
However, some believe that the move was to prevent Otoniel from exposing government corruption in his testimony.
Gustavo Petro, a leftist senator and leading contender for the next presidential election, called the police move a "seditious act against the truth.
"The government does not want Otoniel to speak," he said on Twitter.
Otoniel, 50, was arrested in October in northwest Colombia's dense jungle during an operation involving some 700 uniformed agents backed by 18 helicopters.
He is currently being held in an ultra-high security facility in Bogota, awaiting extradition to the United States.
The FARC guerrillas laid down their arms after signing a historic peace pact in 2016, bringing an end to more than half-a-century of armed conflict.
But Colombia has been gripped by violence, particularly in recent months, as fighting continues over territory and resources between dissident FARC guerrillas, the ELN rebel group, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.
Colombia remains the world's leading cocaine producer, with the United States its biggest buyer.
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