For Immediate Release: May 14, 2009
New York Human Rights First hails the release from jail yesterday of renowned Colombian human rights defender Martin Sandoval after six months of unjust detention. His release confirms that the criminal investigation against him was baseless and should never have been initiated.
“Prosecutors have it exactly backwards. Instead of bringing trumped-up charges against human rights defenders such as Martin Sandoval, officials should recognize that these activists strengthen Colombian democracy,” said Andrew Hudson, Senior Associate at Human Rights First. “Now that the authorities have recognized that Sandoval is innocent, they should turn their attention to the long list of other activists locked-up without due cause.”
In a recent report Human Rights First documented a broad pattern of baseless prosecutions of human rights defenders in Colombia, involving lengthy trials and incarcerations. Other activists currently in detention include Carmelo Agamez in Sincelejo and Andres Gil and Miguel Gonzalez in Bucaramanga.
Sandoval was accused of rebellion and of supporting the terrorist guerilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Eleven other community leaders were released at the same time as Sandoval. Sandoval is President of the Permanent Committee of Human Rights (CPDH) in Arauca and has a long record of exposing arbitrary detention, forced displacement, and extrajudicial executions. He was detained on November 4, 2008, in a joint operation involving the national intelligence service (DAS) and the Prosecutor