The detained former Colombian agriculture minister, Andrés Felipe Arias Leiva, has filed an emergency motion in Miami federal court asking the judge to release him immediately and throw out the case against him on the grounds that the extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia is not in effect.
The motion, filed Oct. 24, immediately set up an unexpected dispute over the validity of the extradition treaty. The U.S. government on Friday responded that Arias Leiva is wrong and that the treaty is definitely in effect.
He was arrested at his Weston home in August, two years after evading corruption charges in Colombia and fleeing to South Florida.
Federal Judge John O’Sullivan, gave Arias Leiva’s attorneys — David Oscar Markus, Ricardo Bascuas and Marc David Seitles — until Monday to reply to the government’s contention.
The emergency motion came after O’Sullivan last week denied Arias Leiva’s second request for release on bond.
Arias Leiva’s wife, Catalina Serrano, said the lawyers would not appeal the bond denial, but instead they would focus on fighting the extradition. Serrano spoke after attending an event at Mondongo’s restaurant in Doral where former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe spoke about the peace process in the South American country.
The case against Arias Leiva must not proceed because the extradition treaty with Colombia is not in effect, the former minister’s lawyers wrote in their emergency motion. As evidence, they listed a number of documents and cases showing that the treaty was considered not in effect in Colombia.
First, they say, on Dec. 12, 1986, the Supreme Court of Colombia said that the “legislation ratifying the extradition treaty was not constitutionally ratified.”
As a result, the motion says, “the extradition treaty never went into force and is a nullity.”
The attorneys also quoted several legal cases that allude to the extradition treaty not being in effect. The motion also cites documents from the Colombian government that seem to support the conclusion that the accord is not in effect.
“The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official list of all extradition treaties ever negotiated by the Republic of Colombia likewise shows that the U.S.-Colombia treaty is not ‘in force,’” according to the motion.
In the U.S. attorney’s office response Friday, the U.S acknowledged that the Colombian Supreme Court considers the treaty not in effect. But the U.S. response said that because neither the United States nor Colombia has taken steps to renounce the accord, it’s still in effect.
“It is the unequivocal view of the U.S. Department of State that the treaty remains in force between the United States and Colombia,” according to the U.S. response. “Regardless of the effect of the Colombian Supreme Court decision under the domestic law of Colombia, the United States has never considered that decision (or a subsequent decision affirming it) to have had the effect of suspending or terminating the operation of the treaty.”