Over 100 British politicians, lawyers and unionists have called on the Colombian government to immediately release a human rights defender and trade unionist imprisoned for three years without trial.
Liliany Obando was arrested in 2008 on charges of fund raising for the FARC and “rebellion” – defined in Colombian law as “attempt to destroy the national government or abolish or amend the constitutional regime by employing arms.”
According to the campaign group “Free Liliany Obando”, the activist was actually raising money for farm workers union FENSUAGRO. She was arrested the week she wrote an article about the murders of over 1,500 FENSUAGRO members throughout the last 30 years.
The campaign state, “The evidence against her has been widely discredited even by international police and the police captain who oversaw the initial investigation of her case.”
The petition, which was organised by British NGO Justice for Colombia, was signed by Lords and MPs from all three main political parties in the UK as well as over 40 lawyers and the leaders of the all the country’s main unions.
The letter accompanying it states, “Ms Obando has been jailed for her political beliefs rather than for any crime; she is being deprived of her liberty in order to silence her and discourage others like her from speaking out about human rights abuses.”
It adds, “We believe that Liliany Obando is innocent and that her detention is a severe violation of human rights.”
The Free Liliany Obando campaign say that prison officials are currently subjecting Obando to a campaign of harassment and abuse because of her work organizing political prisoners and reporting mistreatment of inmates.
According to Tony Lloyd MP, former UK foreign minister and Chair of the Parliamentary Group Friends of Colombia, the case is not unusual.
He said, “In Colombia there are hundreds of cases like that of Liliany Obando, innocent people who are imprisoned by the Colombian authorities as a means to silence them.”
In the press release accompanying the petition, Justice for Colombia called on the government to take action to protect human rights workers in Colombia. They said, “the Santos government has now been in power for over a year, and yet despite a change in rhetoric there has been no change in the treatment of critical voices.”