Judge grants conditional freedom for son of Colombian president

Nicolas Petro, who is accused of receiving illicit money during his father’s 2022 election campaign, has been released on condition that he not leave Colombia or participate in political activities.

Grab taken from a handout video released by Colombia's Superior Council of the Judiciary
Nicolas Petro was arrested with his ex-wife Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez [Consejo Superior de la Judicatura/Handout via AFP]

A judge has granted Nicolas Petro, the eldest son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, conditional freedom while he faces money laundering and illicit enrichment charges connected to financing for his father’s campaign.

Judge Omar Leonardo Beltran rejected a request from the attorney general’s office to impose house arrest on Nicolas Petro, which had been supported by the defence.

“The request for the imposition of a security measure is also accepted … but for non-custodial measures,” the judge ruled.

The judge said prosecutors did not substantiate the need to keep the president’s son in detention or under house arrest. He was ordered released on condition that he not leave Colombia or participate in political activities.

Petro, 37, was arrested last weekend in the city of Barranquilla with his ex-wife, Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez, who is being held on similar charges.

Beltran also decided that Vasquez would remain free while facing charges of money laundering and violation of personal data.

Prosecutor Mario Burgos told a Thursday hearing that Petro, who resigned as a lawmaker in Atlantico province, had said illegal money entered his father’s 2022 election campaign, that it exceeded legal limits and was not fully reported to electoral authorities.

According to the charges, he received money from accused drug traffickers in exchange for including them in the president’s peace plans.

Testimony in the proceedings depicted a web of passion, betrayal and corruption in which Petro was unfaithful to Vasquez during their marriage with her best friend, who is now expecting his child.

He has pleaded not guilty but said he would collaborate with prosecutors, who accuse him of buying properties valued at $394,000 with money that did not come from his salary.

Mario Andrés Burgos, the prosecutor in charge of the case, said Nicolás Petro assured that he would deliver audios and documents to corroborate that part of the money given to him ended up financing his father’s candidacy.

Collaboration may lead to a reduction in Petro’s possible sentence, which could be between 12 and 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

The president said he was personally pained by the allegations against his son but denied awareness of any illegal activities.

He has pledged to continue with his administration’s policy plans, including the pursuit of peace or surrender deals with armed groups and an ambitious reform agenda.

“No one can be above the law and justice must be applied in an impartial way, with due process and all constitutional guarantees,” he said in a statement posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

“Nothing and no one can stop the fight of an entire life against all forms of corruption, and the government will continue, without distraction, its work and commitment for a better Colombia,” the president said.

Colombia’s president, who was part of the M-19 rebel group, came to prominence as a lawmaker noted for impassioned speeches on corruption by right-wing paramilitary groups and their political allies.

The case, however, has come at a time when he is losing popularity and has been exposed to attacks by opposition parties, which have become increasingly reluctant to cooperate with his legislative agenda.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies