AFP accused of grilling Colombian prisoner

September 20, 2009

A Colombian human rights group has accused the Australia Federal Police (AFP) of illegally interrogating political prisoner Liliany Obando in a Bogata jail.

Obando, a trade unionist and human rights campaigner, was arrested by the Colombian authorities in August 2008. She was charged with "rebellion" against the state. The charge is commonly levelled against those who campaign against the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

She visited Australia in 2005 and 2007 to build solidarity with the Colombian people's struggles for peace and justice.

The AFP officer allegedly asked Obando for information on the groups and individuals she had met when in Australia.

In a September 4 statement, the Permanent Campaign in Solidarity with Political Detainees (PCSPD) denounced the interrogation as an abuse of authority.

The statement said that on September 2 Obando was summoned to an meeting under the guise of an interview with the office of social work. However, the meeting turned out to be with "two men, one of whom appeared to be a foreigner, and a woman". The visitors did not have a required judicial order for the interrogation.

One man identified himself as Juan Carlos Cortes, an agent of the directorate of criminal prosecution of Colombia. "The foreigner identified himself as David Nelson of the Australian Federal Police."

The statement said: "They express[ed] their intention to obtain precise details about the identities of people and organisations that [Obando] met during her trips to Australia in 2005 and 2007."

Obando refused to respond to the interrogation.

PCSPD said Obando "made clear that this was a deception and an extension of political persecution to Australian citizens and organisations".

Australian-based solidarity group Peace and Justice for Colombia circulated the statement "due to the implications of the attempts to criminalise international solidarity".

On September 12 it said: "We are concerned about the information received that the [Australian] Federal Police appear to have breached the rights of Colombian trade unionist and human rights campaigner Liliany Obando, unjustly held at the 'El Buen Pastor' womens prison in Bogota, Colombia."

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