Success for UCU and JFC as former Political Prisoner wins Appeal

Justice For Colombia News | on: Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dr. Miguel Beltran, Colombian academic and former political prisoner has finally won an extension to carry out his postdoctorate study from outside Colombia, following months of appeal.

Beltran’s original application to extend his sabbatical was denied in July this year, when the National University of Colombia tried to force him to return to the campus in Bogota to teach, or threatened him with losing his job. Beltran could not return to Colombia due to ongoing death threats. His union, ASPU, the Colombian university teachers’ union, and staff and student representatives, took up an appeal against the University’s decision. JFC and the UCU, with the support of unions from around the world campiagned to support them, and finally, following several rejections, it was upheld on 16th October.

Dr. Beltran had been held as a political prisoner for over two years, accused of “rebellion” and has suffered ongoing false accusations and threats following his release in June 2011.

He was forced to flee the country in September 2011 after learning of a plan for his imminent assassination and had been carrying out a commission for distance research with the National University of Colombia since then.

Justice for Colombia and UCU, the British University and College Union, campaigned vigorously for Beltran’s release from prison, and now for his right to live without fear of assassination. The wider international academic community also supported the campaign and public statements were issued by several international teachers’ unions including in Britain, Canada, the US and Australia as well as a declaration from the Education International Higher Education and Research Conference which took place in Buenos Aires, September this year. See documents attached.

Following the positive decision, Beltran has thanked JFC, UCU and the Colombian and international teaching community for their support, saying it was only made possible due to this support. below is his note. The success is testament to what can be achieved through international pressure.

However, despite the good news, the fight is not over. The Superior Council of the University has asked the Colombian government’s National Unit of Protection to carry out a study of the risk Beltran faces, and has said they will suspend their positive decision, should the study claim he is no longer in danger. JFC will continue to follow his case and provide international pressure and accompaniment to ensure a fair process.

Letter from Dr Miguel Beltran

Dear Colleagues,

Please receive an affectionate greeting with best wishes. I share with you the successful result of the request I made to the National University of Colombia – that was initially rejected – to extend my period of post doctorate research, which was interrupted by my kidnapping in Mexico, and unjust deprivation of freedom, for two years in Colombia, in what was a clear persecution of critical thought and research. This result was made possible thanks to the dedicated work of all of you; to the tireless and collective labour of the teaching representatives at the different levels of appeal, to ASPU for their permanent presence and representation; to ASOPRUDEA for taking on this cause as their own; to the different teachers’ unions at international level, especially UCU (UK), CONADU (Argentina), NEA (US); to Education International and their affiliate unions that made public their statements of support; to Justice for Colombia, for their constant solidarity; to GESCAL; to the office of University Welfare that supported the request via the Protection Programme; to the lawyers that advised us with their legal expertise; to the student representatives, as well as colleagues, who in the day to day, have contributed in addition to their support, their friendship.

Thank you to all of you for considering this request as a vindication of the teaching staff and public university together, that transcends the limits of personal considerations, and places as important the need to continue defending our rights – including those that, such as the right to life, continue to be denied in our country. These constitute the basis of free expression and of critical questioning. The Centre for Latin American Studies (CELA) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Gino Germani Institute of the University of Buenos Aires, have understood this very well, so thanks to them.

Fraternal Greetings,

Miguel Ángel Beltrán V.

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