Injustice and judicial failings in the case of Colombian political prisoner David Ravelo are outrageous by any standard. By December 11, 2013, that well-known defender of human rights, a resident of Barrancabermeja, had spent more than two years behind bars. The announcement he was convicted and would spend 18 years in jail came that day.
The international campaign to secure Ravelo’s release took a step forward on February 1, 2013 when a letter on his behalf went to Colombian Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre Lynett. Other officials received copies. Importantly, this letter was sent over the names of 302 people from around the world who want David Ravelo free.
They asked that David Ravelo be released now and that protection be provided for his family in Barrancabermeja. Death threats against Ravelo’s family members have been constant. Recently they’ve mounted.
Notable veterans in the fight for social justice endorsed the letter. They included: Noam Chomsky, linguist and political analyst; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink; David Bacon, labor journalist; Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence; S. Brian Willson, peace activist and author; Bill Quigley, constitutional lawyer; Daniel Kovalik, USW Senior Counsel; Lisa Sullivan of School of the Americas Watch; Walter Lippmann, editor, CubaNews; Don Berry, President, Maine State AFL-CIO Federation; and Aviva Chomsky, historian. The letter appears below.
According to one spokesperson for the North American Committee to Free David Ravelo, organizer of the letter project, this is only a beginning. Tom Whitney said the group will be sending the letter again as more names of endorsers are received. The Alliance for Global Justice, the Committee’s partner in the initiative, will continue an “action alert” on Ravelo on its website. Whitney urges people to sign on at: <afgj.org/free-david-ravelo-colombian-political-prisoner-wrongfully-sentenced-to-18-years-in-prison>.
The North American Committee will be asking those backing peace with justice in Colombia to sign on to other letters going out to responsible Colombian and U.S. officials. In addition, committee members will be organizing public information sessions wherever possible about David Ravelo’s case and the general situation of Colombian political prisoners. The group anticipates joining up with other Colombian solidarity efforts in these and other endeavors.
Please direct questions to the Committee to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com. Here’s the letter:
February 1, 2013
Dr. Eduardo Montealegre Lynett
Fiscal General de la Nación, Fiscalía General, Dg. 22B No. 52-01 (Ciudad Salitre) Edf. C P.4, Bogotá, Colombia
Dear Dr. Montealegre,
This letter concerns David Ravelo (cédula de ciudadanía 13.887.558) who was arrested on September 14, 2010. He is presently wrongly held by your government at La Picota Prison in Bogota. It was announced on December 11, 2012 that he had been convicted of “aggravated homicide” and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Those of us signing this letter regard the judicial process delivering Mr. Ravelo to a long prison term as unjust and erroneous.
The pretext for David Ravelo’s arrest and conviction is the allegation he participated in the murder in 1991 of David Núñez Cala, Secretary of Public Works in Barrancabermeja. That charge is false. David Ravelo is innocent. He must be released from prison.
Both Mr. Ravelo’s family and his colleagues at the CREDHOS human rights organization in Barrancabermeja have long been subjected to death threats. The Colombian government must guarantee their safety.
Your government’s purpose in inflicting a long prison sentence on David Ravelo, we suspect, was to silence a recognized defender of human rights. David Ravelo was instrumental in publicizing abuses and violence in Barrancabermeja at the hands of murderous paramilitary criminals.
Conduct of Mr. Ravelo’s trial was scandalous. The case against him rested on accusations from two jailed paramilitary murderers who, by testifying, gained reductions in their sentences. Witness Orlando Noguera testified that the accusers tried to bribe him to corroborate their story. Over 30 witnesses prepared to defend David Ravelo were prevented from testifying at his trial.
Corruption and fakery marking David Ravelo’s trial is epitomized in the role played by prosecutor William Pacheco Granados. In 1991, Granados was a police lieutenant in Armenia. There, he helped arrange for the forced disappearance of Guillermo Hurtado Parra. Colombian law bans perpetrators of such crimes from service as a public official. Yet the Colombian state used Pacheco Granados, designated as “Prosecutor 22 of the National Anti-Terrorist Unit,” as its agent in putting David Ravelo in prison.
Prosecutor Pacheco Granados is a criminal. David Ravelo is neither a criminal nor a terrorist. He must be freed.
The world is watching. United Nations human rights specialists and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights have come to David Ravelo’s defense. In December, 2012, British parliamentarians denounced his trial and conviction. (http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article9850) Dozens of European and U.S. human rights, labor and lawyers’ groups have done likewise. (http://www.fidh.org/Colombia-International-12579 and http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/IMG/pdf/
We join these international human rights advocates. We call for justice to be done, now.
To contact the North American Committee to Free David Ravelo, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.