FREEDOM FOR SIMÓN TRINIDAD!

...about Simón Trinidad

Today is Simón Trinidad’s birthday, he was born on July 30, 1950. As a young man from a wealthy family and attending the naval academy, he could not accept the violence, exploitation, and oppression he saw in his own country. He started to organize reform movements of peasants, workers, and progressive Colombian professionals demanding change. In the mid-1980’s he became an organizer for the Patriotic Union, leftist electoral coalition.

At that time a huge persecution against anything that smelled like “left” was untied in Colombia. The army, dressed up like civilians, threatened and killed people belonging to the Communist Party, trade unions and the Patriotic Union. People around Simón were being killed, he was tortured and he and his wife were being threatened several times. That`s why he decided to go to the mountains and join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the age of 37.

When in 1999 the FARC-EP started peace talks with President Andrés Pastrana, he played an important role as a spokesman, to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Colombia. A few years later, he was sent to Ecuador to meet an aide of UN chief Kofi Annan so they could discuss terms of a prisoner release by the FARC. On the 1st of January 2004 he was captured by local authorities in a street in the city of Quito (Ecuador). From Ecuador, he was transferred to Bogotá (Colombia) and sent to a maximum security prison, completely isolated from the world.

One year later, Simón was extradited by the Colombian government to the United States. In spite of the fact that when Simón Trinidad was captured and handed over to Colombia, there weren´t any charges in the US against him, the Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez convinced the US authorities of asking him in extradition. Finally, he was extradited to the US accused of drug-trafficking. But all drug charges against Trinidad were dropped in May 2008, leaving in evidence that his extradition was really based on a judicial mis-en-scène.

His first trial, in 2006, ended in a hung jury. The prosecutors changed their accusations; now they charged him of terrorism, on the single charge of membership of the FARC-EP. In the second trial, he was condemned to 60 years of prison, while the two other U.S. trials on drug trafficking charges also ended in hung juries and mistrials.

The Colombia law and Constitution prohibit the extradition of national citizens for political reasons, and it´s obvious that Simón Trinidad was extradited because of his belonging to an insurgent organization, which makes him a political prisoner.

For the last ten years, he has been held in a high security federal prison, in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, with chains with thousands of Volts that provide an electrical shock whenever he makes an abrupt movement. He is not allowed to receive letters, read or learn English; he’s not even allowed to communicate freely with his lawyer.

The FARC appointed Simón Trinidad as one of their plenipotentiaries in the peace process they are having in Havana, Cuba, with the Santos administration, because of his experience in peace talks, his capacities and his unbreakable will to make peace. In a letter to President Barack Obama, dated 23th of November, they solicit him to use his pardoning power to allow the presence of Simón in Havana. They stated that the Colombian government should ask for it. The Colombian government, as usually, responded negatively.

The FARC-EP think it is time for the US government to show that they really support Colombia’s peace process, as they have affirmed in several occasions. The US should give Colombia the opportunity to count on Simón’s experience, intelligence and perseverance. After almost half a century of conflict, it´s not only our dream to reach peace with social justice; it’s also an urgent need. For such a noble pursuit, anything possible should be done.

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