Letter from Political Prisoner

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 1 June 2011

David Rabelo

David Rabelo

Below is a public letter sent from prison by political prisoner David Rabelo. David, a well known regional human rights leader has been imprisoned for 8 months on the back of flimsy accusations made by paramilitaries. He has been falsely imprisoned in the past, having spent 27 months incarcerated at one point before being released and absolved of all charges. A trial hearing is expected to take place in late June.

For more information and to protest against his ongoing detention please visit the political prisoners’ campaign page.

Words from David Rabelo Crespo “Once again in prison”

Monday 23rd May, 2011

In Colombia, and particularly in the region of Magdalena Medio, those of us who are committed to leading social processes and alternative politics have been subjected to the intransigence of the establishment. They use state security forces and paramilitaries, to criminalise those they consider to be the internal enemy, using physical elimination - that is, murder - and judicial set-ups in order to imprison them.

The assassination of popular and social leaders, human rights defenders and opposition politicians, has been a constant generalised and systematic practice. It is not simply by chance that there have been thousands and thousands of political assassinations in Colombia, and particularly in the region of Madalena Medio. Hundreds and hundreds of unpardonable crimes have been committed, many in Barrancabermeja, like the leaders Leonardo Posada, Ismael Jaime, Orlando Higuita, Manuel Gustavo Chacón, Francisco Burgos and so many others who gave their lives for the noble cause of liberty, peace and democracy. They were simply silenced and the cases covered with the cloak of impunity.

The perverse practice of the judicial set-ups is another type of criminalisation, which with false witnesses and pre-agreed scripts imprisons community leaders, because they are considered by the establishment to be a thorn in their side.

In 1993, I was the victim of a judicial set-up when Colonel Fabio Garcia Chaves, from the Nueva Granada Battalion, in an 11-line written statement, accused me of having links with the insurgency, and a lieutenant from the Calibio de Puerto Berrio Battalion made a formal criminal accusation against me for the death of a soldier, where the only ‘proof’ was the aforementioned intelligence report, which accused me of being a member of the insurgency. They also accused me of the killing of a policeman. These reckless accusations were shown to be false, even the Police Commander of Barrancabermeja at the time stated that no policeman had been killed on the date given, exposing the falsity of the accusations. They then used three anonymous witnesses who were encouraged to accuse me of implausible things, for example that the guerrillas had financed my university studies and that I had ordered the blowing up of oil pipelines so that the state oil company Ecopetrol would award me the contract to repair the pipelines. The accusations were shown be false.

Regarding the university accusation, it was shown that I had worked for 10 years as a librarian in the university library and that as an employee I was entitled to a grant to study, guaranteed by the collective agreement we were covered by at the time. Ecopetrol also confirmed that I had never worked for them as an employee or a contracted worker.

The aim was to keep me in jail, and after 27 months of being imprisoned, it was proven that all of it had been a judicial set-up and I was absolved of all charges and declared innocent.

It is similar to the case shown in the autobiography of Nehru “Once again in prison”, who on several occasions was imprisoned for leading the struggle for freedom in his country.

Now once again I am in prison, as a result of a fabricated judicial set-up that comes from the Itagui prison, from the paramilitary criminals, the same ones who have tried to assassinate me many times. I have no doubt that state organisms are involved, particularly those that are being investigated for carrying out illegal intelligence activity, and who are working in alliance with these paramilitaries. These paramilitaries are protected by the benefits of the Law of Impunity, Law 975. On 17th April 2008, the paramilitary known as ‘el Panadero’ [the baker], accused me of carrying out a murder in Barrancabermeja on the 5th April 1991. This man has been sentenced to 40 years for the massacres he committed in Barrancabermeja, and the human rights organisation CREDHOS of which I am a member was the organisation which accompanied the victims and exposed the crime. This accusation is an act of retaliation.

They are also making me pay for exposing the meeting that [former president] Alvaro Uribe had with several paramilitaries in Puerto Berrio (which was caught on video) to several media outlets.

What is clear is that not one single accusation made against me has been proven to be true. There are many contradictions and inaccuracies amongst the false testimonies, but the Attorney General has denied me due process and not recognised the right of the defence to discard evidence; I am sure that the trial, where I will have the opportunity to intervene, will demonstrate my innocence.

I have now been behind bars unjustly for 8 months, they are making me pay for my tireless work in defence of human rights, and as I have said on previous occasions, they are trying to create a moral match between the victims and the victimisers, to try and make us the same as them, and delegitimize the just cause of defending human rights and the right to be a member of the political opposition.

Neither with the false accusations and even less with the imprisonment have they been able to co-opt me or subjugate me, my morals are strong and I am working in prison to defend the human rights of the detainees.

Thank you for the solidarity and support from the social organisations, trade union, human rights and religious organisations, international organisations and the people of Magdalena Medio.

Forward, the battle for liberty and dignity of our people continues!

David Rabelo Crespo

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