Colombian intelligence official held in journalist’s murder

New York, June 30, 2010—A former deputy director of the national Colombian intelligence agency has been ordered held for masterminding the 1999 murder of journalist Jaime Garzón. José Miguel Narváez is currently behind bars awaiting trial in a separate case.

The attorney general’s office issued the order on Tuesday after at least three former paramilitary leaders implicated Narváez in Garzón’s murder, the national daily El Tiempo reported. Former paramilitary leaders have already tied Narváez to the murder of Colombian communist militants, according to El Tiempo.

Narváez, who was deputy director of the Administrative Department of Security, also known as DAS, has been in prison since August 2009 on charges of illegally spying on local judges, journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights groups, including CPJ. Narváez was formally accused of illegal espionage in January 2009 and will stand trial. The former DAS official has also been linked to the 1994 murder of left-wing politician Manuel Cepeda, according to El Tiempo.

Narváez’s lawyer, Ulises Durán, said his client will appeal the decision, the Bogota-based newspaper El Espectador reported.

“We hail this decision as an important stride in the still unsolved murder of Jaime Garzón,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas program senior coordinator. “Colombian authorities must now identify and prosecute all those responsible for carrying out the killing.”

Garzón, a political satirist and TV and radio host, was killed on August 13, 1999, by two gunmen on a motorcycle around 6 a.m. as he was driving to work in Bogotá. On March 10, 2004, a Bogotá court convicted paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño to 38 years in jail for also masterminding Garzón’s killing, El Tiempo reported. Castaño vanished in April 2004 and is believed to have been killed by other paramilitary leaders.

Colombia has the highest level of impunity in journalists’ crimes in Latin America, according to CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, which calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population.