Key witness in ‘Palace of Justice’ siege arrested in western Colombia
Colombia’s Prosecutor General said that a former army sergeant considered a key witness in the investigation surrounding the 1985 Palace of Justice siege has been arrested, national media reported Thursday.
The former army officer, Bernardo Alfonso Garzon, was arrested in the city of Cali and later transferred to the Prosecutor General’s Office in Bogota.
The Palace of Justice siege occurred in Bogota on November 6, 1985 after 35 M-19 guerrillas stormed the courthouse, holding personnel, civilians and officials hostage in the building. Following a military siege, the situation escalated and ended in a bloodbath, killing over 100, including 11 supreme court judges, and injuring dozens more. Eleven civilians also disappeared during the operation.
Prosecutor General, Eduardo Montealegre told national media that Garzon is considered “a missing link in the case of the courthouse because [he is an] important person who has knowledge of facts.”
Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s Office said during the announcement of the arrest, that Garzon could shine light on some of the missing facts in the case.
Montealegre said the former sergeant is expected to cooperate and contribute information on the case, however, Garzon initially denied having been at the courthouse at the time of the incident, but videos contributed by national media indicated the that army sergeant was present at the time of the operation.
Preliminary police reports obtained by the Colombian newspaper El Espectador reveal that Garzon told authorities that members of the Army Battalion Charry Solano, a former counter-intelligence unit, retained guerrilla Irma Franco in a van during the operation where they questioned and later killed him.
Garzon has earlier spoken of the ‘questionable’ actions of the Charry Solano Battalion in the 80’s during a case in January 1991, concerning the army’s involvement with paramilitary forces and human rights violations.
According to the Garzon, the unit is also behind the ‘disappearance’ of M-19 political activist Nydia Erika Bautista and girlfriend of a ELP commander Amparo Tordecilla, who are both presumed dead.
The details of the Palace of Justice siege have been marred in controversy since, and a series of court rulings have held the military responsible for the unreported “disappearances” of the 11 civilians.
In October of last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDR) opened its own investigation into the matter.
- Capturaron al sargento (r) Garzón, el “eslabón perdido” de la retoma del Palacio de Justicia (Radio Santa Fe)
- Capturan al sargento (r) Bernardo Alfonso Garzón por retoma de Palacio de Justicia (El Espectador)
- Capturan al sargento (r) Bernardo Alfonso Garzón por retoma de Palacio de Justicia (El Colombiano)
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