Translator’s Note: David Ravelo, arrested on September 14, 2010 and imprisoned in La Picota Prison in Bogota, is serving an 18-year sentence. Appeals have failed, although Colombia’s Supreme Court has been considering his case. His words below attest to a lifetime of, as he puts it, defending human rights. Beginning in the late 1980s he served as a municipal official in his native Barrancabermeja for the leftist Patriotic Union electoral coalition. First and foremost, he led resistance to paramilitary killings and massacres afflicting Barrancabermeja for years prior to his arrest. Ravelo headed Barrancabermeja’s Credhos human rights group which he helped found; nine Credhos leaders have been assassinated.
Ravelo, a member of the Colombian Communist Party’s Central Committee, was instrumental in implicating Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias “El Panadero,” as the lead organizer of paramilitary attacks in and around Barrancabermeja, though his report below does not spell this out. Government prosecutors used Mejía’s accusation against Ravelo of complicity in a 1991 murder to put him in prison. Ravelo had been imprisoned earlier, also on false charges, in 1993-1995. That was the era of deadly persecution directed at the Patriotic Union. Disclosure: In December 2012, the North American Committee for the Defense of David Ravelo sent a delegation to Colombia in solidarity with Ravelo, and the translator was a member of that group.
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In June 2007 the reporter Gerardo Reyes of the Miami Herald newspaper called me from the United States and told me about a video showing President Álvaro Uribe Vélez meeting in Puerto Berrío (Antioquia) with several paramilitaries from Barrancabermeja. He had the video sent to me, telling me that he had spoken with several people and no one dared to denounce what it showed. In the middle of June, of the same year, I denounced that secret meeting before the mass media at a national level. From then on, ferocious persecution was unleashed against the present writer.
On February 11, 2008, the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP) informed me that I was being followed by a paramilitary commando wanting to assassinate me. The government asked me to leave Barrancabermeja, an action I rejected inasmuch as the state is supposed to guarantee protection of human rights for citizens and for defenders of human rights.
On February 17, 2011, the MAPP again approached me with a warning. Now they were certain that that paramilitary group was going to make an attempt against my person with a high-power explosive device placed inside my home. We denounced this before national and international organizations. I myself felt obliged to leave the city.
Changing strategy and seeming to leave off physical assassination, the murderers took to persecution and judicial assassination. Thus it was that on April 17, 2008, in the prison in Itagüí (a national factory for judicial fakery), the confessed criminal Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias “Panadero,” speaking under the auspices of Justice and Peace1 told about a non-existent meeting in the year 1991 supposedly to prepare for the killing of engineer David Núñez Cala. The criminal stated that the present writer had participated in the said meeting with former congressperson Arístides Andrade.
The Third Prosecutor in Barrancabemeja took on the investigation, and on finding no proof or reason tying me to the trial, he decided to disassociate me from the investigation. But suspiciously the Attorney General of the era, Mario Iguarán Arana, on March 25, 2009 transferred the trial from Barrancabermeja to Bogotá.
On July 31, 2009, the last day Iguarán was serving as attorney general, he assigned the trial to Anti-terrorism Prosecutor 22, William Gildardo Pacheco Granados. And he did this without any previous investigation and in disregard of the action taken by the Barrancabermeja prosecutor. Immediately he put me under investigation. From this time on, there came into being an entire ocean of arbitrary actions with violations of due process and the right to defense, and along with it the macabre alliance with the false witness, alias “El Panadero.” To prove it, Investigator Jairo Salazar Medina, on two occasions, removed Mr. Fremio Sánchez Carreño, another false witness, from Ward Seven of La Picota Prison to Ward ERE 3, of Justice and Peace, which is located away from the main prison. There, he could meet with Alias “El Panadero” and get himself oriented with the set-up directed at sullying the name of David Ravelo Crespo. That was the reason why these criminals delayed the investigation, so that they could meet and put themselves in agreement with the set-up as they saw it, all with the intervention of Jairo Salazar Medina of the Technical Investigation Team (CTI) and the criminal Prosecutor William Gildardo Pacheco Granados.
The main proof the Prosecutor had was a photo of several people appearing with FARC insurgents during a peace process, and, according to Alias “El Panadero,” David Ravelo was there in that photo. On several occasions Alias “El Panadero,” offering a physical description of David Ravelo, affirmed not that his face was thin, which it is, but that he was tall and dark-complexioned. Clearly he did not know me; it became clear that reporter Miguel Ángel Rico García of the Liberal Vanguard newspaper was there in the photo. He was covering those talks. Doctor Horacio Serpa Uribe, the priest Jaime Barba Rincón, and the photographer Jesús Villamizar Rodríguez who took the picture, all of whom participated in that meeting [with the FARC], confirm that the person appearing in the photo is the journalist Miguel Ángel Rico García. That gives the lie to what the false witness “El Panadero” said.
The effrontery of this set-up became clear when William Pacheco as prosecutor, and Jairo Salazar Medina as investigator, moved the youth named Fernando Barbudo Chávez to Ward Seven of La Picota Prison so he could testify against David Ravelo. But when my lawyer Alirio Uribe cross-examined that false witness, he found out that the false witness had been only nine years old when the acts they accused me of actually occurred, thus revealing the crude set-up.
Another important element is that the judge named to continue the trial was an administrative judge, and unexpectedly he was switched for a temporary judge who took exclusive charge of my case. This person acted like a “hook,” as they say; he was only thinking about convicting me, disregarding the documentary evidence and testimonies related to the trial, and basing his decision solely on the testimonies of the two false witnesses.
The ocean of irregularities does not stop there: then it was discovered that Prosecutor William Gildardo Pacheco Granados could not and ought not carry out that function because as a national police lieutenant, on March 6, 1991, in the city of Armenia, he forcibly disappeared the youth Guillermo Hurtado Parra, an atrocious act verified by the Inspector General’s Office that removed him in the first and second judgments and a military criminal justice court that convicted him; he appealed to every level of the Colombian justice system like the Supreme Court of Justice, the Constitutional Court, and the Council of State, but they all confirmed his removal on account of the forced disappearance, a crime against humanity; that is to say, it’s firmly established that this criminal who carries on as a prosecutor did disappear the youth Guillermo Hurtado Parra.
What a paradox! Someone violating human rights, like William Gildardo Pacheco Granados, is investigating a defender of human rights. What guarantees could he offer in the trial? Obviously none! This was the regular judge who investigated me even though Law 270 of 1996 (Judiciary Statutes), Article 150, Clauses 5 and 6, literally says that whoever is removed for disciplinary reasons or convicted on criminal charges may not exercise any responsibility in the judiciary system. And this was the jewel who had me put in prison, despite false evidence and him having the legal problem of the specific disqualification imposed on him by the Inspector General’s Office. Another odd fact has to do with Investigator Jairo Salazar Medina who in 1988 was functioning as a lieutenant in the Army in Barrancabermeja. There, on January 15 of that year, non-commissioned army officer Francisco Pérez assassinated USO union leader Manuel Gustavo Chacón Sarmiento, for which he received a 16-year prison sentence. And the killer’s immediate superior at that time was Jairo Salazar Medina.
El Tiempo newspaper on March 6, 1992 published as criminal news the report that Mr. Jairo Salazar Medina had been removed from the National Army for mismanaging a revolving fund. Another paradox: This individual kept exercising his functions as a member of the CTI of the National Attorney General’s Office. It was he who pushed ahead with the investigation against me even though he was quite unfit to do so.
What remains clear here is a “criminal underworld” triangle where evildoing brings these three personalities together to elaborate a set-up and rob me of a whole life of defending human rights. They utilize the lie as their favorite weapon and they trample truth underfoot. It’s very clear I was convicted without evidence and all due to an unlawful interest in imprisoning me in order to remove me from the public stage as a defender of human rights.
I have publically insisted, and with all respect, that the relatives of engineer David Núñez Cala, who was basely murdered, have every right to demand and know the truth so that justice that is due, and founded on the truth, might be applied to this unpardonable crime — not the faked and false truth, as orchestrated by a criminal prosecutor like William Gildardo Pacheco Granados and by false witnesses like the confessed criminal Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias “El Panadero.” Among other things, it’s also fully proven that this individual ordered from prison the kidnapping and rape of the distinguished journalist Jineth Bedoya. This was an atrocious act that he never confessed in the Justice and Peace process; that is to say, he lied, as is his custom.
Furthermore, a criminal trial against him is now underway on account of his having ordered from prison the assassination of the principal of the 26th of March School in Barrancabermeja. There are so many other facts demonstrating this individual’s capacity for lying that the Prosecutor surely knows of his modus operandi.
This fake trial is full of an ocean of lies. It’s been said against me that there exists “an extensive body of evidence” — that’s false, totally false. There exist only the declarations from the two false witnesses — these are the supposed “proofs.” There is nothing else. On the contrary, the broadest possible evidence exists, documents as well as testimonies, establishing my innocence.
In a perverse way, they are trying to question my activity as a defender of human rights as they assert: “David Ravelo, a supposed defender of human rights, never had threats against him nor did he do anything that brought any risk onto himself.” This is a mean-spirited, deceitful statement that disregards the collective memory of the community of Barrancabermeja where I dedicated a big part of my life to defending human rights. That was evident when on September 9, 2009 the present writer was awarded the order of San Pedro Claver of the Diocese of Barrancabermeja for a life entirely dedicated to the defense of human rights.
With tenacity and dignity, defying the risk and overcoming the affronts, I have resisted all the persecution I have been subjected to for defending the noble cause of human rights. To these liars I throw back at them the words of the philosopher Lucio Anneo Séneca, who affirmed: “Many lie to deceive and others because they are deceived.”
I have always said that the stem of truth bends but never breaks. The moment will come in which the truth is going to take precedence over all that macabre scheme and put the role of false witnesses into evidence, because, among other things, the Attorney General of the Nation himself has introduced charges for procedural fraud together with false testimony against the false witness Mario Jaimes Mejía alias “El Panadero.” The Attorney General thus verified that this criminal lied in the proceedings in my case.
On February 9 of this year, the Ninth Criminal Circuit Court of the city of Bucaramanga endorsed the accusation presented by the Specialized Third Prosecutor of the National False Witnesses Unit. An exhaustive examination had been made of testimonial evidence from Luis Orrego, Pedro Gilberto Niño Pardo, Jorge Valencia, Orlando Noguera, Fernando Barbudo Chávez, and Jesús Villamizar Rodríguez. Through their testimonies they explained how the crude set-up had been hatched. Therefore, the innocence of David Ravelo Crespo and José Arístides Andrade is demonstrated absolutely.
It was shown that the only two “testimonial proofs” against me are false. Now what legal reasons are there for the present writer to remain in prison for a crime he never committed?
But it’s also necessary to mention that the criminal Prosecutor William Gildardo Pacheco Granados was criminally linked to the trial by virtue of the forced disappearance of the youth Guillermo Hurtado Parra, in particular by Specialized Prosecutor 67 who ruled on forced disappearance as a crime against humanity. So it’s clear that this “regular judge” who sent me to prison lacked jurisdiction to do so because he was unqualified. He was the one who directed the entire set-up against the present writer, creating all this tangle of lies in order to imprison me unjustly.
I will keep on utilizing all possible petitions nationally and internationally (e.g. the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the OAS) in order to make clear my full innocence and keep on telling the national and international community that in spite of the torment to which I have been subjected I keep my head high. And from prison I am fulfilling my activities I have carried out all my life as a defender of human rights. To exercise that noble and loadable activity in this country entails taking on risk — I will continue to take it on. And I am sure that at the end of the road the light of truth will shine with all its brilliance. We will overcome the ignominy to which I have been subjected, because the truth surely will make me free.
David Ravelo Crespo, political prisoner and victim of a criminal set-up
1 Translator’s Note: Colombia’s Law of Justice and Peace, enacted in 2005, was an arrangement whereby paramilitary leaders received sentences of eight years or less in return for confession of crimes and demobilization. Judicial decisions subsequently allowed some leaders to be prosecuted further if confessions proved to be incomplete or criminal activities continued. “El Panadero” was reportedly seeking to gain favor by accusing David Ravelo and thereby avoid a longer sentence.
Translation by W. T. Whitney Jr. Click here to read the original Spanish.