Colombia criticized for sentencing human rights advocate
Members of the British Parliament joined human rights organizations in condemning the sentencing of a Colombian human rights advocate.More than 80 members of the British Parliament reportedly signed a letter addressed to Colombia's Prosecutor General denouncing irregularities in the trial of David Ravelo Crespo, claiming the accusations against the alleged murderer are "politically motivated."Ravelo was found guilty of the 1991 aggravated homicide of David Núñez Cala, a former mayoral candidate in the municipality of Barrancabermeja in the Santander department, and on December 6, 2012 was sentenced to 18 years in prison.Ravelo's supporters, however, have noted numerous “severe irregularities” in the trial. They point out that the conviction is based on the testimony of two convicted demobilized paramilitaries who, in exchange for testifying against Ravelo, received shorter sentences. A further point of contention with the testimony is that fact that one of the paramilitaries "is in prison as a direct result of Mr. Ravelo’s human rights work," according to statements made by European human rights organizations.In their letter, Ravelo supporters argued that the prosecutor on the case, William Pacheco Granados, "was dismissed from the police force in 1991 after being implicated in a forced disappearance" which, under Colombian law, should disqualify him from acting as a prosecutor.David Ravelo was active in the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) and a founding member of the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS). Campaigners say he upset authorities by bringing high profile human rights cases against the Colombian military.In March 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders sent a communiqué to the Colombian government expressing their concern with the prosecution, claiming that the “criminalization of David Ravelo occurs in the context of increasing prosecutions against human rights defenders in Colombia.”Ravelo had already spent more than two years in prison awaiting the outcome of the trial. He will reportedly appeal the sentence.
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