Campaigners for trade unions and human rights in Colombia are reporting an incredible response to the letter sent from 1000 UK academics in support of Dr Miguel Beltran, the academic being tried for ‘rebellion’ by the Colombian government. The story was picked up by all the main Colombian newspaper websites, Colombia’s main TV channel and its largest radio station. Dr Beltran’s wife Nelsa sent her thanks to all who had signed, saying she was truly overwhelmed with the response in the Colombian media and seemed really hopeful that it will be a lot more difficult for the authorities to convict Miguel after the support shown.
Dr Beltran’s trial began on Thursday 11th November and will continue until the 25th November. The verdict should come out around 12 days after that. Two representatives from the British embassy attended the first day of the trial, following representations from UCU General secretary Sally Hunt. You can read some of the coverage in English here: http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/12703-uk-academics-demand-release-of-farc-member.html and here: http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/12945-british-parliamentarians-free-colombian-political-prisoners.html.
Read the original letter from the 1000 academics here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4742
TAKE ACTION NOW: We are calling on all unions who have signed the Global Teacher Network’s international agreement to take urgent action in support of Dr Beltran. Please write to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, calling for a fair trial that respects academic freedom.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you have done this.
You can use the following model letter:
Dear Mr President
You will be aware of the huge interest in the trial of Dr Miguel Angel Beltran among the international academic community, demonstrated by the letter with over 1,000 signatories from academics in the United Kingdom which received such publicity last week in Colombia. In addition, you will be aware of the recent protest by British parliamentarians calling for Dr Beltran to be released.
Academic staff in our countries too have been following the case of Dr Beltran closely. It is seen as a test case for the practice of academic freedom, which is a cornerstone of a democratic society. We share a deep concern that Dr Beltran has been in jail for the last 18 months because of his political beliefs rather than because of any crime. Now that his trial is under way, we hope that it will be fair and objective and if it is, we are confident that he will be exonerated and released.
We are aware that Dr Beltran is just one of the many academics, trade unionists and other leaders of civil society who are imprisoned in Colombia for their political beliefs. Others include trade unionists Rosalba Gaviria Toro and Liliany Obando and human rights defenders Carmelo Agamez, Samuel Rojas and David Ravelo.
We hope that a fair trial for Dr Beltran will pave the way to justice and release for all these political prisoners, and to an improvement in Colombia’s standing with the international community.