NASUWT hails release of jailed trade unionist
Commenting on reports that the jailed teacher trade unionist Omar Alfonso Combita has been released from prison in Colombia, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said:
“The report of Omar’s release is truly wonderful news.
“His release from incarceration will be a huge relief for his family, friends, colleagues and the wider trade union movement, in Colombia and across the world.
“Omar’s ‘crimes’ – on trumped-up charges of rebellion – were nothing more than taking part in peaceful and democratic protests against government education reforms.
“His arrest was actually part of a shameful wider attempt by the authorities to silence opposition by the trade unions and human rights organisations, which is continuing.
“Omar has been denied medical treatment while in prison, including medication for Parkinson’s disease, and held in appalling conditions, all with constant delays to the legal process. His treatment by the authorities has been vindictive and disgraceful.
“The NASUWT and its members have campaigned vigorously on his behalf and will continue to campaign to ensure he is completely exonerated.
“But the fight will continue to secure justice for all trade unionists and human rights activists in Colombia and around the world.”
Notes to Editors
Omar Alfonso Combita was imprisoned in 2011 merely for carrying out trade union activities.
A member of the Colombian teacher’s trade union FECODE, Omar was arrested and detained on 2 October 2011 for ‘rebellion’. The so-called acts of rebellion were little more than protests against government reforms to education, being in short, the work that many trade unionists would carry out within the UK.
According to Justice for Colombia the case against Omar appears to have been “based on an intercepted phone call with a supposed guerrilla and on a police intelligence report, the content of which has changed twice, making it highly dubious”.
It is clear that he has been arrested in order to silence government opposition.
The NASUWT has been lobbying and meeting with UK officials both in the UK and in Colombia to campaign for his release but also for Omar, who has the early stages of Parkinson’s to be allowed medical treatment.
The NASUWT is supporting the Justice for Colombia campaign in calling on the Colombian government to free all the political prisoners arrested for membership of the trade union movement.
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