Inquiry into European Parliament ‘surveillance’

FOREIGN intelligence services spying on the European Parliament?

The idea was greeted with sniggers and treated as yet another sign that the MEPs are living in a parallel universe.

But Colombia’s Supreme Court and an investigation into what is being termed Colombia’s Watergate shows that the Parliament has attracted spooks. The revelations come as Colombia is love-bombing the EU to encourage them to agree a free-trade agreement.

In the capital, Bogata, the former director of DAS, the country’s FBI style intelligence agency Jorge Noguera, is on trial and the witnesses include former employees complete with documents and recordings.

The scandal implicates a lot of the country’s leaders including the personal secretary of the country’s popular former right wing President, Alvaro Uribe.

The DAS was involved in the illegal wiretapping and surveillance of judges, politicians, journalists, trade unionists and NGOs involved in human rights and other issues. They conducted dirty tricks and death threats against major players in the country’s democracy.

Among the documents the Colombian Attorney General’s office has produced is one detailing action against EU agencies and bodies seen as placing obstacles in the path of the EU free trade agreement.

According to the file they wanted to “neutralise the influence of the European judicial system, the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”.

Members of the Parliament’s human rights committee raised the issue with the Commission, that said it had raised the matter with the Colombian authorities.

Some MEPs want the matter investigated by the judicial and police authorities but fear it may not happen because of Colombia’s ties to Spain, the current holder of the EU presidency. They point out that a former DAS director who headed up Uribe’s 2002 campaign set up the special group within DAS known as G-3 to that carried out the surveillance on the EP and others.

Their targets included the Supreme Court magistrates investigating former President Uribe’s political allies’s links to right-wing paramilitary groups and which has resulted in 60 politicians being jailed.

Just last month investigators found recordings that showed all the candidates that ran against President Uribe in the 2006 election had been wiretapped. DAS detectives have said they spied not just on politicians, mostly from the opposition, but former presidents, journalists, their wives, children, and advisers.

But MEPs continue to be concerned following the election of Juan Manuel Santos as President, a member of the former president’s cabinet. Their best hope lies, they feel, with the incoming Belgian presidency that takes over this week, since one of their citizens appears to have been targeted by DAS.

He is Paul-Emile Dupret, political adviser to the United European Left group in the Parliament and he says he ended up on DAS files after helping organise a protest against President Uribe when he visited Brussels six years ago.

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