Colombia Frees Cuban ISIS Suspect: Social Media Posts Are Not Terrorism

Police escort Cuban suspect Raul Gutierrez to court where a judge will rule on prosecutors’ request he be held on terrorism and conspiracy charges in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, March 15, 2018. Gutierrez is suspected of plotting to kill American diplomats in the name of the Islamic State. Fernando Vergara - …
AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

A Colombian judge dropped charges on Monday against Raúl Gutiérrez Sánchez, a 46-year-old Cuban economist accused of plotting a terrorist act on behalf of the Islamic State (ISIS), because “if everyone were judged by what they posted on social media, we would all be in jail.”

Gutiérrez has consistently denied being a member of ISIS or even a Muslim, instead arguing that he is militantly opposed to the radical left, the “new world order,” and the United States.

Colombia had deported Gutiérrez twice before his arrest, when he was found to once again be in the country illegally. In addition to alleged terrorist acts against the United States, prosecutors claimed that Gutiérrez had planned bombings against senior members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist organization.

The Colombian court ordered Gutiérrez’s immediate release because the prosecution failed to prove that Gutiérrez had taken any steps towards committing an act of terrorism other than posting hateful anti-American and anti-communist screeds on social media.

“There are imminent terrorist attacks that are not punishable,” the judge reportedly said. “The acts were merely thought of, but there are no deeds … preparatory acts are irrelevant legally.”

Gutiérrez had reportedly admitted to planning attacks on American citizens, calling all Americans “thieves, conquerors, and murderers.” He also admitted to planning attacks against the head of the FARC, the terrorist senator known as “Timochenko,” and leftist former Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. In an interview in May 2018, two months after his arrest, he claimed to be a member of a group he called “Justice Movement 51,” which allegedly had ten members, all Cuban exiles.

He retracted the admissions, however, and the prosecution did not prove the claims independently.

The prosecutor failed to produce evidence of the alleged law enforcement officials pretending to be ISIS terrorists conversing with Gutiérrez and attempting to convince him to commit acts of terrorism. They also failed to produce proof that Gutiérrez had built bombs or amassed funds to orchestrate an attack, nor did they present any evidence, as the charges required, that Gutiérrez was a member of an organized criminal group, according to El Tiempo, suggesting no evidence exists that anyone else is a member of Justice Movement 51.

The judge in the case argued that “if everyone were judged by what they posted on social media, we would all be in jail,” rejecting social media posts as the exclusive basis for a trial, according to El Espectador.

Speaking to the court during a prior hearing, Gutiérrez admitted to intense bitterness and hatred, but denied being a terrorist.

“I am a fool … a disturbed person due to my personal situation with emotional loss, affected by exile, my wife’s abandonment, the loss of my family, a modern society that is occupied with enslaving us but not with caring for the human being as such, disturbed by poison on the internet, really I’m a pathetic person,” he reportedly said, adding conversely, “The prosecution … does not have a single shred of proof against me, no physical evidence or witnesses that can prove or confirm what I am accused of.”

At the time, the prosecution did claim to have witnesses, but did not bring any to the court following the arrest. The indictment against Gutiérrez said he had spent hours talking to government informants on Whatsapp and Telegram, complaining, “There are no cojones left in this world to do justice. Only ISIS does anything.”

An alleged government informant used this hook to convince him to commit a lone-wolf terrorist attack against random civilians in Colombia, but Gutiérrez instead reportedly insisted on targeting communists like Timochenko. The FARC is affiliated with the Venezuelan government, which has ties to the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, an ISIS rival.

Prosecutors claimed the informant and Gutiérrez ultimately agreed to bomb the U.S. embassy in Bogotá “to kill American citizens in order to strengthen religious extremist groups,” a claim Gutiérrez denied.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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