Police Threaten Mother of Murdered Student Leader

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Ana Benilda Angel Orjuela, the mother of a student leader murdered by police, has written an open letter to the Commander of the special ESMAD riot unit of the Colombian Police denouncing how she has been persecuted and received death threats from ESMAD officers because she is seeking justice for her son's murder.

Oscar Leonardo Salas Angel, a student leader at the National University of Colombia, died after being shot in the eye by ESMAD police during a March 8th 2006 student demonstration at the university campus.

In the November 29th letter, Ms Angel documents the systematic persecution that she, other relatives, and students who witnessed the events, have suffered since the death of her son. They have been followed, received numerous death threats in the form of letters and phone calls, and her other son, Cesar Julian, has been seriously harassed by police. The most recent threat came on November 28th, 2007, when she received a phone call saying that her 'Christmas would smell of death'.

Ms Angel has been forced to move house 4 times due to the danger she is in, and in the letter she described what she has had to endure as 'terrible suffering'.

She states that "I have no doubt that the systematic persecution and death threats are coming from ESMAD police who want to create such terror as to silence me and stop my call for justice and truth about the crime committed against my son, Oscar Leonardo."

She also denounced that the person from the Attorney General's office assigned to investigate the death of her son has ignored important testimonies from students who witnessed the event and treated her and her family with contempt.

After ignoring important evidence to the contrary, the investigator shelved the case, saying that the police were not responsible, and that the death was caused by explosives that Mr Salas or other students were supposedly using.

Due to the failure of the Colombian State to carry out a legitimate investigation, Ms Angel and her lawyer, Dr Reinaldo Villalba Vargas from the human rights lawyer's collective 'CAJAR', proceeded to collect the evidence themselves. They recorded testimonies from various witnesses and collected videos and photographs. Ms Angel says that all the evidence gathered proves the ESMAD are guilty of killing her son and that they use methods and weapons during civilian demonstrations which are prohibited by law.

She has also warned that should anything happen to her, other relatives or witnesses – then ESMAD will be responsible. She said, "I make it very clear that if anything happens to me, my family, or anyone who has given us information about the events, those responsible are from ESMAD… those who have denied me forever the smile of my son… I place all responsibility on the head of the police should these threats become realised."

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