January 16, 2010

Trail for trade unionists resumes in February

PV Vancouver Bureau

The "rebellion" trial of Liliany Obando, the labour and human rights activist imprisoned by the Colombian regime, is slated to continue in February. Liliany was recently once again denied "home arrest" so that she can care for her two children, Camilo and Laura.

     Meanwhile, solidarity continues to build in Canada and other countries. A very successful fundraiser was held on Jan. 9 at the Tranzac Club in Toronto to help with her legal defence. In other news, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will send a two-person delegation to Bogota next month to visit Liliany and monitor the legal proceedings.

     On December 10, 2009, United Nations Human Rights Day, the International Network in Solidarity with the Colombian Political Prisoners (INSPP) issued a statement in support of Liliany Obando and all political prisoners, calling attention to "the violation of the human rights of Colombia's political opposition and its supporters. The Colombian government is waging a campaign to criminalize critical thinking - a campaign that paves the way for transnational access to Colombia's resources, underwritten with more than (US) $7 billion in the US funded Plan Colombia.

     "Of special concern is the case of Liliany Patricia Obando Villota, undergoing her trial process at this very moment. She was jailed the very week she released a report on the murders of more than 1,500 members of Fensuagro, Colombia's largest union of farmers and farm workers.

     "Liliany is the first person to be arrested and stand trial as part of the farc-politica. This is a process attempting to connect members of the political and social opposition to the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) based on evidence contained in computers allegedly belonging to Commandant Raul Reyes. The Colombian military claims it recovered these computers after a bomb attack killed Reyes and more than 20 others. The computers were in the hands of the Colombian police for over a week before being turned over to the international police agency, INTERPOL.

     "INTERPOL says that tens of thousands of the files contained therein showed signs of tampering by Colombian authorities. Police Captain Roy Hayden Coy Ortiz, who oversaw the initial investigation, testified in court that the computers contained no emails, only Word documents. Alleged emails are the foundation for the charges against Liliany.

     "Liliany's case is important for two main reasons. First, while an acquittal would be a final blow to the whole farc-politica, a conviction would revive it and open the way for broad repression of dissent. A conviction would also strengthen government efforts to destroy Fensuagro by providing a spurious link with the FARC.

     "Liliany and her family have been victims of a series of threatening emails and phone calls. Similar emails have been received by the INSPP. The internationalization of farc-politica intimidation has taken place at all levels. In a trip to Canada earlier this year, President Uribe accused unionists and solidarity activists visited by Liliany of being cells of the FARC. In a violation of Colombian sovereignty and international law, Australian Federal Police officer David Nelson, accompanied by two Colombian officials, visited Liliany in prison, trying to get information about unionists she had contacted in Australia. She refused to cooperate....

     "As we prepare this report, Liliany is trying, for the 8th time, to get home detention during her trial. This is a right that is commonly given to persons in many circumstances, especially women, who like Liliany, are single mothers and sole providers for their children... The right to home detention is frequently provided to those sentenced for all kinds of crimes, including convicted members of paramilitary death squads - yet Liliany has been denied this right seven times.

     "The International Network in Solidarity with the Colombian Political Prisoners calls on all its supporters to demand that the Colombian government implement a Humanitarian Exchange of prisoners as a first step in the political solution to the deep social and complex armed conflict in the country.

- Demand that the Colombian Attorney's General Office grant Liliany Obando home detention to allow her to care for her children.

- Demand that the Colombian government guarantee the safety of Liliany and her family.

- Request that human rights organizations monitor the safety of Liliany and her family.

(The following article is from the January 16-31, 2010 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 133 Herkimer St., Unit 502, Hamilton, ON, L8P 2H3.)

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