Free David Ravelo, Colombian Political Prisoner

David Ravelo, Human Rights Defender and Political Prisoner

Demand freedom and justice for political prisoner David Ravelo. Ravelo is a member of Colombia’s Regional Human Rights Corporation and was honored by the Catholic Diocese of Barrancabermeja for his defense of human rights. He was recently convicted to 18 years in prison for what is widely regarded as a sham trial by national and international human rights organizations.

The North American Committee to Free David Ravelo has drafted a sign-on letter in English and Spanish reprinted below, along with additional background information that they have provided.  Click Here to add your name as endorsing the letter for David Ravelo.  For More Information:  freedavidravelo@gmail.com or atwhit@roadrunner.com.

SIGN ON LETTER IN ENGLISH, FOLLOWED BY SPANISH

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/Carta_al_Fiscal_caso_David_Rabelo.pdf)

We join these international human rights advocates. We call for justice to be done, now.

Sincerely yours,

(name, address, email, ?affiliation)

(Copies go to: Maria Ángela Holguin Cuellar, Colombian Foriegn Minister; Carlos Urrutia Valenzuela, Colombian Ambassador in Washington;Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of Colombia; P. Michael McKinley, U.S. Ambassador in Colombia.)

Spanish Version of this letter:

Sr. Eduardo Montealegre Lynett, Fiscal General de la Nación, Fiscalía General,Dg. 22B No. 52-01 (Ciudad Salitre)Edf. C P.4, Bogotá, Colombia

Estimado Sr. Montealegre,

Esta carta se trata de David Ravelo  (cédula de ciudadanía 13.887.558)  quien fue detenido el 14 Septiembre de 2010 y está encarcelado de manera injusta por su gobierno en la cárcel La Picota en Bogotá.   Desde el 11 de Diciembre de 2012 fue convicto de ¨homicidio agravado¨ y sentenciado por 18 años de cárcel.   Los firmantes a esta carta considera el proceso judicial del caso del Sr. Ravelo injusto y erróneo. 

El pretexto por apresar a David Ravelo fue la alegación que el participó en el asesinato de

David Núñez Cala en 1991, el entonces Secretario de Obras Públicas de Barrancabermeja.  Esta acusación es falsa.  David Ravelo es inocente y debe ser liberado de la cárcel.

La familia del Sr. Ravelo y sus colegas de la organización de derechos humanos CREDHOS en Barrancabermeja han recibido amenazas de muerte.  El gobierno Colombiano debe asegurar su seguridad.

El motivo de su gobierno de apresar a David Ravelo, sospechamos, es para silenciar un defensor de los derechos humanos.  David Ravelo fue instrumental en diseminar información sobre los abusos y la violencia en Barrancabermeja por parte de los criminales paramilitares asesinos.

El juicio del Sr. Ravelo fue escandaloso.  El caso en su contra fue basado en testimonios de dos asesinos paramilitares presos, quienes, por medio de su testimonios, ganaron reducciones dramáticas en sus sentencias.  El testigo Orlando Noguera dio testimonio de que estos intentaron sobornarlo para confirmar sus historias.   Más de 30 testigos listos para defender a David Ravelo fueron prohibidos dar testimonio en su juicio.

La corrupción y falsedades del juicio de David Ravelo fue revelado más claramente en el papel que jugó el prosecutor William Pacheco Granados.  En 1991 Granados fue un cabo de policia en Armenia.  Alli, ayudó a desaparecer a Guillermo Hurtado Parra.  La ley Colombiana prohibe a personas que perpetraron tales crimenes servir en puestos públicos. Sin embargo, el Estado de Colombia usaron a Pacheco Granados, designados ¨prosecutor 22 de la unidad anti-terrorista¨ para enjuiciar a David Ravelo.

El prosecutor Pacheco Granados es un criminal. David Ravelo no es ni criminal ni terrorista.  A el le deben de liberar.

El mundo está mirando.  Unos especialistas de la ONU y de la Comisión Inter-Americana de Derechos Humanos han defendido a David Ravelo.  En Diciembre de 2012, parlamentarios Británicos criticaron el juicio y su convicción. (http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article9850)  Y docenas de grupos europeos y estadounidenses de derechos humanos, laborales y de abogados han hecho igual.  (http://www.fidh.org/Colombia-International-12579   y http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/IMG/pdf/Carta_al_Fiscal_caso_David_Rabelo.pdf)

Nosotros nos sumamos a estos defensores de los derechos humanos internacionales.  Llamamos por la justicia, ahora.

Sinceramente,

Summary of David Ravelo’s case – Brief historical look at conflict in Colombia – Observations on U.S. role.

  1. In Barrancabermeja, his home city, David Ravelo is recognized as a leader in the struggle for human rights. He has led several high – visibility human rights groups and served as a municipal and departmental official. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Colombian Communist Party and in 2008 was honored by the Catholic Diocese of Barrancabermeja for 35 years of human rights work. His efforts were crucial to building popular awareness of participation by paramilitaries and government troops in violent crimes and human rights abuses. In response to pressure he helped generate, the government prosecuted and convicted several of them.
  1. On September 14 2010, David Ravelo was arrested.  On December 11, 2012, more than two years later, he was convicted of “aggravated homicide” in the case of a Barrancabermeja city official murdered in 1991.  Ravelo’s conviction rested on the testimony of two jailed paramilitaries whose crimes Ravelo had publicized. In return for their testimony, the witnesses gained reduced sentences. One, Mario Jaimes Mejía – alias “El Panadero,” had his sentence reduced from 40 to no more than eight years.  At Ravelo’s trial, more than 30 defense witnesses were prevented from testifying. In November, 2012, it came to light that the prosecutor in Ravelo’s case, William Pacheco Granados, had been removed from his police lieutenant’s post in 1992 because he had participated in the forced disappearance of one individual. Under Colombian law, such criminal behavior precludes him from serving as a public official, such as, for example, public prosecutor. David Ravelo’s case is being appealed.
  1. David Ravelo has faced political persecution for more than two decades. He was imprisoned in 1993 -1995 on charges later shown to be false. Beginning in the late 1990’s, paramilitaries took control of Barrancabermeja. Ravelo responded. Since then, he and his family members, particularly his son David Ravelo Gutiérrez, have regularly experienced death threats.
  1. International support for David Ravelo is growing. British Parliamentarians in 2010 denounced his imprisonment and in December 2012, his conviction. http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article9850 In March 2011, United Nations rapporteurs on judicial processes and on victimization of human rights defenders denounced “criminalization of David Ravelo.”  On December 5, 2012 the Inter- American Commission of Human Rights condemned repression against human rights defenders in Colombia including Mr. Ravelo.  In early December, 2012, 13 European human rights groups issued a critique of David Ravelo’s conviction, http://www.fidh.org/Colombia-International-12579 and two weeks later 21 other human rights, labor, and lawyers’ groups from Europe and the United States denounced his conviction in a letter to the Colombian Attorney General. http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/IMG/pdf/Carta_al_Fiscal_caso_David_Rabelo.pdf  Also during that month, 30 British and Irish parliamentarians, lawyers, and labor leaders released yet another condemnatory statement.
  1. Colombia’s prison population has increased by 30 percent during the current presidency of Juan Manuel Santos. Davis Ravelo is one of 10,000 political prisoners. Recent reports highlight abysmal prison conditions: foul sanitary facilities, limited availability of potable water, inadequate medical services, and overcrowding. Many political prisoners serve two to three years without charges and are then released.
  1. Prisons in Colombia are part of a repressive apparatus that includes the army (with almost half a million troops), resurgent paramilitaries, intelligence services, and police. War on leftist insurgents, labeled terrorists, propels harassment and round-ups of unionists, journalists, teachers, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and leftists. They are part of Colombia’s political opposition, yet are often cast as allies of the guerrillas, even as “terrorists.”
  1. The internal state of siege within which David Ravelo is a victim is largely directed at clearing rural areas for exploitation of natural resources and industrial-scale agriculture, projects funded by foreign investment.   Humanitarian disaster is palpable: rural poverty exceeds 60 percent, 30 percent of children are chronically malnourished, five million Colombians are displaced from their land, and hundreds of thousands have been murdered or “disappeared” over 40 years. With a Gini coefficient of 0.587, Colombia’s income inequality in 2009 was the greatest in Latin America.
  1. The U.S. government, leery of leftward drift in Latin America, regards Colombia as its chief regional ally. With its Plan Colombia initiated in 2001, the U. S. government increased backing for the Colombian military that has been ongoing for half a century. The United States has supplied over $8 billion to expand the Colombian army, police, and prisons. Some falls into paramilitary hands. U.S. troops and military contractors, armed with sophisticated intelligence technology, join national forces in anti-insurgent operations. The U. S. government controls seven Colombian air bases.
  1. The time now is crucial. The Patriotic March, a new and peaceful popular mobilization, is growing in size and vigor. Violent attacks aimed at repression have begun. And negotiations are underway between the Colombian government and FARC insurgents. The U.S. government’s position is highly uncertain.

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The North American Committee is part of a worldwide movement directed at securing David Ravelo’s release from prison. Members of the Committee traveled to Colombia recently to express solidarity with Ravelo. In Barrancabermeja our nine – person delegation met with David Ravelo’s family and his co-workers involved in the human rights struggle there. We visited a small farmers’ settlement in a remote area afflicted by armed violence. In Bogota, the group met with activists, political leaders, and lawyers.  Two delegation members visited David Ravelo in La Picota prison in Bogota where he is held.