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NASUWT continues to campaign for justice for Colombian trade unionists

Colombian academic has conviction quashed

Miguel Ángel Beltrán, a Colombian academic and trade unionist, has been released from prison after his eight year sentence was quashed by the country’s highest court.

The NASUWT has been campaigning for the release of Miguel, who was convicted on bogus charges in July 2015 and has been detained in a maximum security prison for over a year.

In partnership with Education International, EI, the NASUWT has made a formal request for his case to be reviewed, for his release and for the restitution of his civil and academic rights. The Union has also written to the Colombian ambassador in the UK and the Foreign Secretary to highlight Dr Beltrán’s case and to call for his release.

Dr Beltrán is a member of the higher education union ASPU, one of Education International’s member organisations in Colombia. He has been an outspoken critic of the Colombian government and has dedicated much of his research to conflict and turmoil within the country.

He was first arrested in May 2009 over false allegations that linked him to the computer of a Farc leader.. Despite being cleared of all charges in 2011, he was removed from his position at the National University of Colombia and still suffers a politically-motivated ban preventing him from serving at any public universities in Colombia.

His release comes after the announcement of a peace agreement in the country that it is hoped will end five decades of armed conflict in the country, which has left tens of thousands of people dead.

Colombia, which has one of the highest rates of violence against teachers and trade unionists, is in the final stretch towards peace now that the Government and FARC have reached an agreement.

Before this deal is ratified by Parliament the Colombian people will be called to vote for or against it in a plebiscite that both affiliates of EI in the country, FECODE and ASPU, strongly support.

Omar Combita freed from jail

Omar CombitaThe NASUWT has welcomed the release of Omar Alfonso Combita from prison in Colombia, which was described by NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates as "wonderful news".

Ms Keates said: “The report of Omar’s release is truly wonderful news.

“His release from incarceration will be a huge relief for his family, friends, colleagues and the wider trade union movement, in Colombia and across the world.

“Omar’s ‘crimes’ - on trumped-up charges of rebellion – were nothing more than taking part in peaceful and democratic protests against government education reforms.

“His arrest was actually part of a shameful wider attempt by the authorities to silence opposition by the trade unions and human rights organisations, which is continuing.

“Omar has been denied medical treatment while in prison, including medication for Parkinson’s disease, and held in appalling conditions, all with constant delays to the legal process. His treatment by the authorities has been vindictive and disgraceful.

“The NASUWT and its members have campaigned vigorously on his behalf and will continue to campaign to ensure he is completely exonerated.

“But the fight will continue to secure justice for all trade unionists and human rights activists in Colombia and around the world.”