Education International
Education International

Colombian academic freed from prison

published 2 September 2016 updated 14 September 2016

After more than a year in prison, Miguel Ángel Beltrán, a Colombian academic, has been acquitted from his 8 year sentence by the Colombian Supreme Court, making him a free man.

Three days after the announcement of the peace agreement that will end a five decades long war in the country, the Colombian Supreme Court has acquitted Miguel Ángel Beltrán, convicted on bogus charges after his arrest in July 2015. Professor Beltrán was unjustly sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in the high security prison, “La Picota,” in Bogota on charges of rebellion and conspiracy, linking him to the Colombian armed group FARC.

This was the second time the prominent academic was deprived of his freedom by Colombian authorities on the basis of the same argument, which has proven false. The accusation was based on supposed evidence from the computer of FARC commander Raúl Reyes, which was seized during a bombardment of a FARC camp in Ecuador in 2008.

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.

After his second arrest, Education International (EI) started an international campaign to demand his freedom and made a formal request for his case to be reviewed, for his release and for the restitution of his civil and academic rights.

Today, the Supreme Court has ruled that the charges against Miguel Ángel Beltrán were illegal and based on illegal evidence.

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

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 in one month’s time, 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. Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary, is traveling to Colombia next week in order to participate in a high-level meeting with national and regional trade unions of the Americas, and to offer EI’s support for a peace deal that will make history after five decades of war.