BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia's Supreme Court convicted on Wednesday a former director of the country's domestic intelligence agency for colluding with illegal far-right militias and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
The court found Jorge Noguera, 47, guilty of criminal conspiracy for providing right-wing death squads with lists of leftist activists and labor union leaders, some of whom were subsequently killed.
Noguera was chief of the Administrative Department of Security, known as the DAS, under then-President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2005. He resigned amid reports, which later proved true, that the agency was infiltrated by the illegal militias, known as paramilitaries.
The sentence was the stiffest imposed on a member of Uribe's 2002-2010 administration.
Uribe remains extremely popular for major security gains during his two-term presidency but his legacy has been tarnished by the criminal convictions of several dozen political allies found guilty of conspiring with paramilitaries.
Shortly after his resignation, Uribe appointed Noguera as Colombia's consul-general in Milan, Italy, one of several diplomatic appointments by Uribe of political allies who would later end up in prison or under criminal investigation.
Noguera was also found guilty of destroying and hiding public documents. He was ordered to pay a $1.9 million fine and $89,000 in restitution to the relatives of college professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis, who was murdered by paramilitaries in 2004. Correa had been investigating the paramilitaries' role in the forced displacement of farmers on the Caribbean coast.
The conviction of Noguera was based on documents found in the computer of a paramilitary and testimony from the DAS's former computer chief, Rafael Garcia.
Uribe had steadfastly defended Noguera even as other top officials from his government came under the scrutiny of prosecutors. Two of Uribe's closest aides are currently jailed, one accused of corruption for allowing political cronies to receive agricultural subsidies, the other for allegedly ordering the DAS to spy on judges, journalists and politicians.
One Noguera's successor as DAS chief is also under investigation in the illegal espionage case. She has obtained political asylum in Panama with Uribe's help.
Uribe responded to the verdict on Wednesday via Twitter: "I have trusted him, if he had committed an offense, it pains me and I offer apologies to the citizenry."
Leftist congressman Ivan Cepeda said it was "very telling that ex-President Alvaro Uribe has defended with so much insistence this official."
Cepeda said the conviction "isn't dealing with any upright and honest official, as ex-President Uribe has defended him, but nothing more than a man who's part of the structure of paramilitarism."
Ex-Interior Minister Fernando Londono, who served in Uribe's government, called the verdict "a manifest injustice."
Londono warned that the conviction showed "they are going for President Uribe ... because the DAS didn't answer to any ministry but directly to the president of the republic."
Uribe maintains he never asked anyone to break the law.