CNN is reporting that Colombian authorities are investigating the disappearance and dismemberment of at least 100 people whose bodies were allegedly thrown into a sewer system underneath a notorious prison in Bogota.
The investigation is focusing on La Modelo, one of Colombia’s largest and most overpopulated prisons. But officials say the practice of dismembering people and tossing their remains into sewers might have also happened at other prisons in cities such as Popayan, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla between 1999 and 2001 and possibly later.
Caterina Heyck Puyana, a special prosecutor in charge of the case, said Wednesday that the Colombian attorney general’s office has been investigating what happened at La Modelo for months.
“Towards the end of last year we began investigating the possible disappearance and dismemberment of an undetermined number of people at La Modelo prison in Bogota,” Heyck said. “The victims were inmates, visitors and people who had nothing to do with the prison. Their remains were thrown into the drain pipes of the sewer system.”
According to the CNN report, the discovery of the bodies was made as part of an investigation of two former paramilitary group members: Mario Jaimes Mejía, aka “El Panadero” (The Baker), and Alejandro Cardenas Orozco, aka JJ.
Authorities said Jaimes is a former chief of a paramilitary group in the city of Santander. Once in prison, he would reportedly bribe prison guards so that they would look the other way, and he also controlled access to one of the wings where the killings took place.
Both face charges of torture, kidnapping and rape in the case of Jineth Bedoya. The Colombian journalist was investigating killings, disappearances, weapons trafficking and corruption at La Modelo prison in May 2000 when she was kidnapped and raped.
Jaimes and Cardenas have denied the accusations multiple times, but authorities said they have contradicted themselves during interrogations with prosecutors.