Education International
Education International

Colombia: Teacher trade unionist released after 3 years imprisonment

published 4 June 2007 updated 4 June 2007

Samual Morales, former teacher and regional president of the Colombian Trade Union Confederation (CUT), has been released after spending 3 years in prison.

Morales was detained, along with Raquel Castro, another elected CUT official, on 5 August 2004 during an operation in which the armed forces killed three other trade union activists. There is strong evidence to suggest that the armed forces had also intended to kill Morales and Castro.

After protracted trial proceedings, Morales and Castro were convicted of “rebellion” in November 2006, despite serious doubts about the reliability of evidence presented against them. They were both sentenced to six years imprisonment at a “trial” which neither was aware of, nor given the opportunity to attend.

Conditions in prison are harsh, with both Morales and Castro subjected to psychological torture. During his time in prison, Morales and his family received death threats on several occasions, according to Amnesty International, which advocated for Morales and Castro. Police officers are reported to have pressured the director of a local hospital to dismiss Samual’s wife simply because she is married to him.

Morales will continue with his appeal against the conviction despite the high risk to himself and his family of attack by paramilitaries. Raquel Castro remains incarcerated.

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist: Since 1987, a total of 4,000 trade unionists have been assassinated or "disappeared". Last year alone, 33 teachers were assassinated.