For Immediate Release: August 23, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First condemns the ongoing harassment and persecution of Colombian human rights defender Principe Gabriel González, who was arrested last Friday to serve seven years imprisonment on trumped-up charges.
“As a prominent student activist and the Regional Coordinator for the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee, González was instrumental in exposing the ill treatment of Colombian political prisoners. This advocacy led to his own arrest in 2006 when he was detained on politically motivated charges of rebellion and association with the FARC guerrilla group,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe.
After González was detained for 15 months awaiting trial, a judge acquitted him of all charges, finding them entirely baseless. The prosecution appealed the court’s decision. In March 2009, the Superior Tribunal of Bucaramanga overturned the acquittal and sentenced González to an additional seven years imprisonment.
“The prosecution relied on false accusations from two witnesses to impede González’s human rights work and secure a conviction. The first witness couldn’t identify or even name González before he was detained, and the second witness actually admitted to providing statements under duress from the prosecutors,” added O’Keefe.
In December2010 the Supreme Court declined to hear González’s appeal, and he was arrested last Friday in Pamplona. He had been living in exile, but returned to Colombia to visit his ailing mother.
In 2009, Human Rights First released In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, a comprehensive report that documents the widespread use of trumped-up charges to silence Colombian human rights activists. A year later, in 2009, Human Rights First celebrated González’s human rights work with its prestigious human rights award.