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Free Colombian Political Prisoners

There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in Colombia's jails.

They include numerous trade unionists, student activists, community and indigenous leaders, human rights defenders and academics - all imprisoned for their opposition to the Colombian regime. Most are jailed without trial, though in the few cases in which people are convicted they often face up to 40 years in prison for 'rebellion' - a trumped-up charge that the authorities use against their opponents.

Political prisoners are kept in appalling conditions in overcrowded jails and are often denied medical attention, exercise time and educational opportunities. Many are tortured when first arrested. In women’s prisons, children under the age of three are imprisoned with their mothers - but when they reach three they are taken away and sometimes put into the appalling Colombian 'care' system.

The regime is clearly trying to silence people by locking them up. We are currently campaigning on six prisoners.

Francisco Toloza Francisco Toloza

In the morning of Saturday 4 January 2013, the head of International Relations for the Patriotic March, Francisco Javier Toloza, was arrested and put in jail. The He is being accused of “rebellion”.

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Huber Ballesteros Huber Ballesteros

Huber Ballesteros was arrested on Sunday 25th August in Bogotá accused of financing terrorism and rebellion. The main witness in the case against him is paid by the state and has testified in 35 other cases against social activists. Huber is an elected member of national Executive of Colombia’s largest trade union federation, the CUT, the Vice President of FENSUAGRO, Colombia’s Agricultural Union and a longstanding partner of UNITE the Union and the United Steelworkers of America, and the National Organiser for the Patriotic March, a social and political movement grouping over 2000 organisations.

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David Ravelo David Ravelo

On 14th September 2010 David Ravelo Crespo, Colombian human rights activist and journalist was detained by the Colombian authorities, falsely accused of “aggravated homicide”. On 4th December 2012, Mr. Ravelo was convicted and sentenced to more than 18 years in prison and is now being held in La Picota Prison, Bogota.

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(left to right) Alexis Arroyo, Eulogio Tapiero and Manuel Marquez.

During the summer of 2011, six members of Fensuagro, the Colombian agricultural workers’ trade union, were detained in the region of Putumayo. Alexis Antonio Arroyo, Eulogio Tapiero Galindo, Manuel Antonio Marquez and Telmo Cuero Tegue were imprisoned on 22nd June, executive member Climaco de la Cruz Rodriguez on 30th July, and Faustino Carabali Rodriguez a week later on 7th August 2011. In February 2012 Telmo Cuero was absolved and released. In December 2012, Climaco de la Cruz and Faustino Carabali, held in a separate case, were also freed, on the basis of expiration of the legal period for pre-trial detention, following an appeal by their defence. However, the case against them continues, and the remaining three - Alexis Antonio Arroyo, Eulogio Tapiero Galindo, Manuel Antonio Marquez - continue to be detained in Mocoa Prison, Putumayo.

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Omar Alfonso Combita Omar Alfonso Combita

Omar Combita was arrested on 2nd October 2011 and is currently detained in
La Modelo Prison, Bogotá accused of “rebellion”. He is an active member of
FECODE, the Colombian teachers’ trade union and the director of the Santana
Ramos Education Centre

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The Colombian trade union leader Huber Ballesteros was arrested by Colombian police days before he was due to address the 2013 TUC conference in Bournemouth. Justice for Colombia managed to obtain a video message from Huber smuggled out from inside the prison and played to the TUC congress. This is the full message.

Liliany Obando was imprisoned for more than three and a half years in Buen Pastor Prison, Bogota, accused of “rebellion” and was released after a JfC campaign. Click here to see our interview with Liliany the day of her release. In it she thanks everyone who participated in the campaign and speaks of her determination to continue the struggle for those political prisoners that remain behind bars.

The Colombian regime tries to silence those who speak out about human or workers rights. Some are killed, others imprisoned. Many of the victims are trade unionists. Justice for Colombia filmed inside two Colombian prisons where political prisoners are being held. Both of the prisoners featured- Miguel Beltran and LIliany Obando- have now been released following JfC campaigns.

Success stories

While many more political prisoners continue to be detained in Colombian prisons, JFC has successfully campaigned to set free the following people

Climaco de la Cruz and Faustino Carabali Rodriguez Climaco de la Cruz and Faustino Carabali Rodriguez, members of Fensuagro, the Colombian agricultural workers’ trade union, were imprisoned from 30th July and 7th August 2011 respectively, until December 2012 in Mocoa prison, Putumayo, accused of “rebellion”. They were released after a JFC campaign, however, the legal case against them continues.

Liliany Obando Liliany Obando, Liliany Patricia Obando was imprisoned from 8th August 2008 to 1st March 2012 in Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, Bogotá. She was dragged away by the Colombian authorities in front of her two terrified children and her elderly mother. The Colombian regime accused her of 'rebellion' and has held her since then in appalling conditions in jail without being convicted of any crime. Click here for more information on her case

Rosalba Gaviria Toro

Telmo Cuero Tegue, member of Fensuagro, the Colombian agricultural workers’ trade union, was imprisoned from 22nd June 2011 to 12th February 2012 in Mocoa prison, Putumayo, accused of “rebellion”. He was absolved and released immediately, following a JfC campaign.

Carmelo Agamez Berrío Carmelo Agamez, a human rights defender, was imprisoned from 15th November 2008 until 26th September 2011 – 34 months - without being convicted of any crime.
He was held on accusations of "conspiracy to commit a crime". Although he has been released from prison, the legal process against him continues. Click here for more information on his case

Dr Miguel Angel Beltran Colombian academic Dr Miguel Angel Beltran was detained and imprisoned on 22nd May 2009. He was released on 7th June 2011 after being absolved of the charges of 'rebellion' and ‘criminal conspiracy for terrorist purposes’. In May 2011 Justice for Colombia and the UCU, coordinated an open letter to Colombian President Santos calling for Dr. Beltran’s release, signed by over 4,000 international academics. Click here to see a copy of the letter with signatories. Click here for more information on his case

Rosalba Gaviria Toro Rosalba Gaviria Toro, a Fensuagro trade union activist and President of the Women's Movement for Peace and Human Rights was detained and imprisoned on 9th March 2009. she was released on 3rd June 2011 after being absolved of the charges of 'rebellion' and 'serious consiparcy to committ a crime'.

Aracely Cañaveral Vélez Aracely Cañaveral Vélez, a well known leader of the informal workers’ trade union, ASOTRACOMERCIANT, was imprisoned on January 17th 2010. She was released on May 16th 2011.

Samuel Rojas Samuel Rojas thank you letter Samuel Rojas, leading member of the Bajo Ariari Regional Human Rights Committee, was detained from 10th September 2010 to 18th February 2011 on accusations of “rebellion”. He was absolved of all charges and the case against him was shown to be fabricated by the Colombian authorities. Samuel has written in thanks to the Justice for Colombia campaign for his freedom. Click here to read his letter.

Alirio Garcia Alirio Garcia, a member of the national executive of the Colombian agricultural workers trade union, FENSUAGRO, was imprisoned from 9th August 2009 until 25th March 2010 accused of rebellion. He was absolved of all charges and released from jail after the case against him was shown to be false.

Hernando Hernandez Pardo Andres Gil, a leader of the Peasant Farmers Association (ACVC) was detained by the Colombian secret police and members of the Army on 29th September 2007. He was held for two years without being convicted of any crime until his release on 31st August 2009.

Miguel Gonzalez Miguel Gonzalez, a founding member of the peasant farmers union ACVC, was imprisoned in January 2008. JFC campaigned for almost a year for his release, which was finally granted in June 2009.

Martin Sandoval Martin Sandoval, president of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights in the Colombian region of Arauca, was released from prison on the 13th May 2009 after being unjustly detained for over six months. We had been campaigning for his release since November 2008.

Carmen Mayusa Carmen Mayusa, human rights defender and leading activist in the Colombian health workers union, ANTHOC. She had been detained since the 11th May 2006 in Buen Pastor Women's Prison, Bogota. After two years imprisoned without trial she was released in June 2008.

Nieves Mayusa Nieves Mayusa, human rights defender and trade union activist, was detained on 11th May 2006 in Buen Pastor Women's Prison, Bogota. She was released with Carmen in June 2008.

Raquel Castro Raquel Castro, Colombian teacher and union activist for the Teachers' Association of Arauca helped to lead the mobilization that prevented Occidental Petroleum from drilling for oil in the territory of the U'wa indigenous people. She was arrested on 5th August 2004 and released more than three years later in August 2007.

Samuel Morales Samuel Morales, Colombian teacher and union activist for the Teachers' Association of Arauca was detained on 5 August 2004 and was convicted of 'rebellion' in November 2006, despite serious doubts about the reliability of evidence against him. On 28th April 2007 he was released after completing his sentence. He will continue with his appeal against the conviction.

Hernando Hernandez Hernando Hernandez, indigenous leader and member of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, in Caldas, and the Colombian Agricultural Union FENSUAGRO. He was detained in June 2005 and held without trial until November of the same year.

Luz Perly Cordoba Luz Perly Cordoba, founding president of the Rural Association of Arauca (ACA) and manager of the human rights section of the Colombian Agricultural Union FENSAUGRO. She was detained on 18th February 2004, and set free in April 2005. Luz now lives in exile.

Hernando Hernandez Pardo Hernando Hernandez Pardo, former national president of the Oil Workers Union USO, was detained in December 2002 and kept under house arrest for 14 months, without charge. He was released on 26th March 2004.