Colombia solidarity activists harassed

February 19, 2010

The following is abridged from an article by Peace and Justice for Colombia.

* * *

In recent months, there had been unprecedented harassment and persecution of solidarity activists internationally who have shown support to the political struggles of the Colombian people.

This international campaign began soon after the March 2008 murder of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia-People's Army (FARC-EP) leader Raul Reyes and the illegal seizure of information from a "magic laptop" that somehow did not get destroyed after heavy bombing.

Law specialists, including INTERPOL, have questioned the legitimacy of such a source of information.

In any case, that information has been used for interrogating academics, journalists, human rights advocates, unionists and solidarity activists, in an attempt to simplistically link social consciousness, political activism or solidarity with "terrorist activity".

Colombian intellectuals have been jailed. On August 2008, film-maker and human rights defender Liliany Obando (who toured Australia on two occasions) was detained but is yet to be tried.

On May 2009, Professor Miguel Angel Beltran was illegally extradited from Mexico to Colombia, accused of being a "FARC intellectual" because of his criticism of the Colombian government.

These cases add to the more than 7500 political prisoners languishing in Colombian prisons.

Outside Colombia, several human rights advocates and solidarity activists have been interrogated or harassed. In Spain on July 2008, pacifist activist Maria Remedios Garcia was temporarily jailed in Spain for alleged links to the rebel organisation, and houses of Colombian activists in Switzerland were raided.

To date, the Colombian government has failed to provide evidence of such connections.

During 2008 and 2009, solidarity activists in Chile, Mexico and Peru were harassed with their pictures constantly appearing in the national media without any incriminatory evidence.

In January, American writer and Colombia solidarity activist James Jordan was escorted out of a plane and questioned by US Homeland Security officials about his solidarity work with Colombia.

In February, an Australian activist was interrogated by the Australian Federal Police at the request of its Colombian counterpart.

This was not the first time that an Australian activist was interrogated for solidarity work with Colombia. Without evidence other than allegations by Columbian authorities, this intelligence work is being carried out by Australian security and police forces and violates the basic civil liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of association.

It threatens the right of people to advocate social justice.

Part of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's campaign to criminalise solidarity is an aggressive campaign of deceit, led by the corporate media. In January, Colombian foreign minister Jaime Bermudez called 41 Colombian ambassadors to draft an agenda for combating what Uribe calls FARC's "parallel diplomacy."

One of the main goals of this is to prevent the screening of recently released Argentinean production La Insurgencia del Siglo XXI (The Insurgency of the 21st Century).

Despite the Columbian regime's efforts, in a number of countries, including Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, France, Denmark and Turkey, the film has been screened. In Argentina and Cuba the documentary premiered in national film festivals.

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