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Colombian court sentences former spy chief for paramilitary ties

By the CNN Wire Staff
Alvaro Uribe, speaking at a press conference in August, denies he ordered his political opponents to be wiretapped.
Alvaro Uribe, speaking at a press conference in August, denies he ordered his political opponents to be wiretapped.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Another former spy agency chief says more people must be held accountable
  • The supreme court sentences Jorge Noguera for helping right-wing paramilitaries
  • He directed Colombia's spy agency from 2002 to 2005
  • The court also rules that Noguera must pay a $1.9 million fine
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Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice sentenced the nation's former intelligence chief to 25 years in prison Wednesday for his connections with paramilitary groups.

Judges ruled that Jorge Norguera gave right-wing military groups lists of union leaders, students and left-wing organizers so they could be executed.

The court also ordered Norguera to pay a $1.9 million fine.

Former President Alvaro Uribe tapped Noguera to head Colombia's Administrative Department of Security -- known by its Spanish acronym DAS -- in 2002. Noguera led the agency until 2005.

Wednesday's ruling was the stiffest punishment handed out so far to a member of ex-President Alvaro Uribe's government, a fact not lost on the former leader's political opponents.

Ramiro Bejarano, another former DAS director, described the ruling as a "condemnation of the government of Alvaro Uribe," adding that more officials must be held accountable for the agency's actions during Uribe's tenure.

Critics allege that Uribe was behind wiretapping conducted by the DAS while he was president.

Several former officials and staffers of the agency have already been sentenced to serve prison time for wiretapping, which targeted judges, opposition politicians, members of the ruling party and journalists.

Uribe has denied accusations that he ordered the agency to wiretap his political opponents.

"I never gave orders to do anything illegal," Uribe said during a congressional inquiry last month, arguing there was a "criminal conspiracy" against him fueled by his political enemies.

"What these court cases demonstrate is that choosing his collaborators was not exactly one of the virtues of Mr. Uribe as a leader," said Sen. Jose Fernando Cristo of the Liberal Party.

On Wednesday, Uribe defended his decision to appoint Noguera.

"I named Jorge Noguera for his experience and his family, I had confidence in him," Uribe posted on his Twitter account. "If he committed a crime, it pains me and I ask the citizens for forgiveness."

Right-wing paramilitary organizations formed in reaction to a longstanding insurgency against the government by leftist guerrillas. Their purported aim was to protect local areas from the leftist rebels -- but the right-wing organizations have also been accused of kidnappings, killings and rights violations.

The United States classified the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia paramilitary group as a foreign terrorist organization in 2001.

Colombia started a program to disband the paramilitary groups in 2003, offering legal and financial concessions to members who quit.

CNN's Gabriela Frias and journalist Fernando Ramos contributed to this report.