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Bogota - A Colombian police colonel who led the operation that took down notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar has been sentenced to nine years in prison for ties to a paramilitary group.
The Supreme Court Wednesday determined that retired colonel Hugo Aguilar had been elected governor of the northwest Santander department in 2003 with the support of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group.
The right-wing organization, whose 31,000 combatants were demobilized in 2006, is accused of carrying out killings and other rights abuses in a secret war against leftist guerrillas.
In 2011, Colombia's inspector general, who oversees the conduct of public officials, said Aguilar was ineligible to serve in public office for 20 years for promoting and collaborating with the AUC.
According to ex-paramilitary chief Edgar Cobos, who went by the alias Diego Vecino, Aguilar “joined the AUC's political project” at a summit of paramilitary leaders that he attended with other politicians.
One of the other politicians present, former senator Luis Alberto Gil, was sentenced to seven years in prison and has already regained freedom.
Seven other provincial governors elected in 2003 were sentenced to prison for courting AUC support in areas where the paramilitary group had influence.
Aguilar commanded the elite police operation that killed Escobar on December 2, 1993, after an intense, years-long search aided by the United States.
Escobar was the head of the Medellin cartel which dominated cocaine trafficking from Colombia to the United States in the 1980s.