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The former president of the Colombian Congress was sentenced Wednesday to seven and a half years in prison for his ties to now defunct paramilitary organization the AUC.

Following a trial that began in March 2011, the Criminal Chamber of Colombia's Supreme Court found Miguel Pinedo Vidal guilty of engaging in parapolitics, by having political and electoral ties to the AUC's Tayrona Bloc, in northern Colombia.

Vidal was accused of having close ties with the Tayrona Bloc's former commander Hernan Giraldo Serna, alias "El Viejo" -- who helped intimidate voters in his political campaigns.

Key testimony in Vidal's trial came from Megaly Ortiz, a politician from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the northern coastal department of Magdalena.

According to Ortiz, El Viejo ordered inhabitants of the region to vote for certain congressmen in the 2002 elections, with the strongest pressure being put on them to vote for Vidal.

Ortiz testified that, "Pinedo Vidal helped Giraldo with domestic issues, that is to say personal favors. Then, they showed us the ballot card of Doctor Miguel Pinedo and we were forced to vote for him."

Vidal, congressional president between 1999 and 2000, served as a senator between 1998 and 2008.

Sources : Colombia Report

See the Chronology of events and diplomatic cables regarding the Colombian parapolitics scandal.

Aylish O'Driscoll