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Former Colombian president slams move to make him stand trial: ‘political vengeance’

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Colombia’s influential former President Álvaro Uribe on Wednesday denounced as «political vengeance» a move by national prosecutors to bring him to trial in a case of witness tampering that has shadowed his legacy.

Uribe insisted in a video message that there was no evidence against him, a day after prosecutors announced their intention to formally charge Uribe with bribery of witnesses in criminal proceedings and procedural fraud.

That would make Uribe the first former president to face trial in Colombia.

FORMER VENEZUELAN OIL CZAR ARRESTED IN CORRUPTION PROBE

The case against Uribe derives from allegations made a decade ago by an opposition senator that Uribe was tied to the creation of a paramilitary group. The former president was accused of bribing former paramilitaries to change their testimonies.

Álvaro Uribe

Senator and former president Álvaro Uribe arrives to the Supreme Court for questioning in an investigation for witness tampering charges in Bogotá, Colombia, Oct. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia, File)

Uribe accused the senator of slander, but that case was dismissed, and the Supreme Court instead opened a criminal case against Uribe on allegations of manipulating witnesses.

«This trial is being carried out due to political presumptions, personal animosities, political vengeance, without evidence to infer that I was trying to bribe witnesses or deceive justice,» said Uribe, who served as president from 2002 to 2010.

Uribe was under house arrest in the case for two months in 2020.

Uribe could face up to 12 years in prison on the charge of bribing witnesses and eight years in prison on the charge of procedural fraud.

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Under previous administrations, Colombian prosecutors tried twice to close the case after saying they had failed to find «criminal responsibility of the defendant.» Those requests were rejected by criminal judges.

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Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

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At least 34 people have died and dozens hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, local media reported on Thursday.

The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

MORE THAN 100 DIE IN INDIA AFTER DRINKING BOOTLEG ALCOHOL LACED WITH TOXIC SUBSTANCE

The incident occurred in the state’s Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Relatives of a man who died after drinking illegally brewed liquor walk in a funeral procession for his burial in Kallakurichi district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India, Thursday, June 20, 2024. The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.  (AP Photo/R. Parthibhan)

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it. «Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,» he added.

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Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has also become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state. And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.


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