The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Unjustly Detained Colombian Activist Freed from Jail

Rights Group Welcomes Release of Martin Sandoval, Calls for Freedom of Other Activists


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's judicial
police (CTI) on the orders of the 1st Specialist Prosecutor's Unit in

In February 2009, Human Rights First released In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,a
comprehensive report which documented the widespread use of malicious
criminal prosecutions and arbitrary detention to silence Colombia human
rights activists.

For further information contact Andrew Hudson +1 212 845 5278

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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.