In August 2008, Liliany Obando was arrested on trumped up charges by the Colombian authorities for "managing money for a terrorist organization", and "rebellion." She was arrested on the basis of emails allegedly found in a computer belonging to FARC Commander Raul Reyes when the Colombian military bombed a FARC camp in Ecuador that was working out details for a prisoner release.
This "evidence" has been widely discredited. The Colombian Police Captain, Ronald Hayden Coy Ortiz, who oversaw the initial investigation of the computers has said under oath that they contained no emails, only Word documents which are easily manipulated. The international police agency, INTERPOL, said the evidence could not be authenticated and "did not conform to internationally recognized principles".
Liliany was arrested the same week that a report was released that she authored detailing the murders of more than 1,500 members of the FENSUAGRO rural farm workers union by the Colombian military and paramilitaries.
Liliany goes to trial on August 27. Her defense team feels confident that it can show that the money she raised was legitimate and traceable and went to the rural workers union. (Many Canadian trade unionists and solidarity activists are familiar with Liliany's work on behalf of FENSUAGRO during her visits to this country.)
However, the second charge "rebellion" is particularly worrisome. As Carlos Cuevas, speaking for the International Network in Solidarity with Colombian Political Prisoners has noted, "Trade unionists get charged with rebellion. Community organizers get charged with rebellion. So it's a very difficult situation when the government creates legislation that criminalizes dissent."
And as Liliany's lawyer, Eduardo Matyas noted, the charge of "...Rebellion is very difficult to defend. The charge is highly political ‑ not really a legal matter." The best defense to such a political charge is a political defense ‑ the mobilization of international opinion denouncing these sham charges and demanding Liliany's freedom.
Liliany's case is especially important because she was the first person to face trial in what is called the "farc‑politica" process. This process is being used to investigate, intimidate and marginalize a variety of unionists, journalists, academics, and opposition political figures.
Her case will set an important precedent: if she wins, then the whole "farc‑politica" house of cards will come falling down. But if she loses, then her loss will represent a whole new level of repression against dissent in Colombia.
The Campaign for Labour Rights is urging organizations in North America to support freedom for Liliany Obando. A resolution can be found on the Web at http://www.clrlabor.org/wordpress/wp-content/lilianyresolution.pdf.
The Campaign is also seeking short handwritten letters protesting the political nature of this case and calling for Liliany's freedom, which will be turned over to Liliany's lawyer. Letters should emphasize the discredited "evidence" against Liliany, and the reality that the case is a thinly veiled attempt to widen the repression of dissent in Colombia. Such letters should be sent to "Liliany Defense Letters," c/o Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC 20003.
Finally, contributions are needed to support Liliany's two children, a 5 year old girl and a 15 year old boy. There are some 90 women political prisoners being held with Liliany, many of them in the same condition, with children struggling to get by.
You can make an online contribution by going to: http://nicanet.org/?page_id=341. Scroll down and mark the option that says "Other: Enter Name" and in the space provided, put "Lily Obando". Cheque or money order contributions made out to the Alliance for Global Justice can be sent to: AFGJ/Lily Obando Fund, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC 20003.
For more information, see the July issue of People's Voice, or visit the Campaign for Labor Rights website: http://www.clrlabor.org/wordpress.
(The following article is from the August 1-31, 2009, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 133 Herkimer St., Unit 502, Hamilton, ON, L8P 2H3.)