Chilean activist Manuel Olate Cespedes was arrested in Santiago on October 29 after the Colombian government alleged he is linked to left-wing guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Below is an abridged statement issued by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) Sydney that calls for Cespedes’ release and opposes plans to extradite him to Colombia.
The LASF (Sydney) wishes to express its opposition to the arrest and detention of Manuel Olate Cespedes.
We also express our grave concern regarding Colombia’s request to extradite Cespedes.
We believe that Cespedes has no chance of receiving a fair trial in Colombia, where more than 600 union leaders have been killed in the past eight years, 38,255 people have disappeared in the past three years, the number of internally displaced people has surpassed 4.5 million and 7500 political prisoners are now being held captive by the Colombian regime.
Like many Colombian union and community activists, Cespedes was arrested for supposed links to the FARC.
The “evidence” cited against him was supposedly obtained from laptops recovered after the illegal bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador in 2008.
This is despite the fact that many military, police and international authorities have said the laptops were clearly tampered with and that any information obtained from them lacks credibility.
The Colombian government has tried to smear all opposition unions and social movements by claiming they are linked to the FARC using “evidence” from these laptops.
Among them is Liliany Obando, a leader of the agricultural union FENSUAGRO, well known to unionists and solidarity activists in Australia due to her visits here. Obando has been in jail for more than two years, despite statements by military authorities that the evidence used against her was fraudulent.
We believe the real intent of the moves to extradite Cespedes — a committed campaigner to the cause of peace and justice in Colombia — is to internationalise this policy of criminalising social movements that oppose the Colombian government’s repressive policies.
We call on all trade unions, progressive parties and solidarity organisations to express their opposition to any attempt to extradite Cespedes.
In particular, we ask that letters be sent to the president of the Supreme Court of Justice in Chile, Sr. Milton Juica Arancibia: