For a 2021 without political prisoners – an international update of some of them

(More on prisoners on behalf of teh Planet  HERE)

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GuateMaya: Congratulations to Bernardo Caal – Justice for him and Delia Adelina

On January 13, Guatemalan freedom defender Bernardo Caal Xol spent his 49th birthday in prison. Bernardo is a family man, a respected teacher and a committed defender of nature and the rights of indigenous peoples. But for daring to question the environmental impact of a foreign-owned hydroelectric mega-dam on the Cahabón River – and the negative effect on the indigenous farming communities living along that river, Bernardo was sentenced in a flawed trial to 7 years and 4 months in prison.

Amnesty International stated, in June 2020, that «he is a prisoner of conscience who has been unjustly imprisoned for more than two years.» His time in prison has begun to take its toll on him mentally, emotionally and physically. With the arrival of the coronavirus in Guatemala, his situation has become more serious. Locked up, Bernardo is forced to live in inhumane conditions, crammed into the same room with 180 other prisoners. Due to COVID restrictions, family visits are severely limited (his mother and daughters are not allowed to visit). His health has suffered and his appeal process has been stalled.

Bernardo recently wrote a letter from prison asserting, «Receiving my teaching degree I returned to my community, this is where the awareness of injustices is born, the communities were still in abandonment, without schools, without teachers, without any elementary services that the State is obliged to provide.» He adds that, for the third year in a row, «I will celebrate my birthday in this prison torture.»

Send him birthday wishes and messages of support and encouragement:

  • Delia Adelina Leal Mollinedo

On January 11, 2021, the Second Criminal Court of First Instance of Cobán decided to indict human rights defender Delia Adelina Leal Mollinedo for a series of crimes and ordered as a substitute measure the freedom of movement with which Delia will be able to defend herself outside of prison. It also decided not to prosecute the crimes of human trafficking, money laundering and falsification of media for which she was arrested on December 29, 2020 in Cobán (Alta Verapaz). The intermediate hearing is scheduled for 27 May 2021.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the decision of the Court not to convict Delia Adelina Leal Mollinedo on the fabricated charges against her. Front Line Defenders has condemned and reiterated its concern that the detention and prosecution of Delia appears to be directly related to her work in the defence of human rights, in particular for the rights of children and women. For this reason, it has denounced the consequent social stigmatization to which she has been subjected. She has also expressed concern for the safety and integrity of this defender and her family. Delia is currently pastor of the Luz Baptist Church and was the driving force behind an initiative to implement a student center that provides scholarships to children from poor and at-risk families. She also promotes sexual and reproductive health with women in indigenous communities of the Q’eqchi’ and Poqomchi’ Region.

On the morning of December 29, 2020, elements of the National Civil Police (PNC substation 51) led by the Cobán Women’s Prosecutor’s Office violently entered her home with a search warrant that did not include her name. They took her into custody for the aforementioned crimes. In the days following her arrest, the defender has been the victim of smear campaigns and public stigmatization in the media and social networks. Misogynistic interpretations and misrepresentations by some media have further contributed to this stigmatization.

India: farmers’ protests call for the release of political prisoners

Event on behalf of political prisoners during the farmer’s protest of Dec 2020 (Photo: Shivangi Bhasin)

In India, farmers have been protesting for 2 months since the end of November 2019, besieging the capital Delhi. Their initial demands were the withdrawal of laws that will affect them and favor large farmers and companies. But now they have also added the amnesty of political prisoners, including those corresponding to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of December 2019. They also demand the release of those jailed intellectuals against whom the Modi government has used the charge of «anti-nationalists» to persecute them. «They have been accused in the false cases, no matter whether they are farmers or revolutionaries, they have been wrongly implicated and sent to jail. Therefore, those cases should be withdrawn and they should be released,» Sukhdarshan Natt, 61, a protester of Punjab Kisan Union, explains in an interview.

Among others, they demand the release of trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhard. Among others, they are demanding the release of trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, poet-activist Varavara Rao, women’s activists Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita and academics Sharjeel Imam and former scholar Umar Khalid. Rao, Gonsalves and others have links to the Naxalite movement with strong communist roots and named after the West Bengal peasant revolts of 1967.

Poster with photo of Indian political prisoners  (Photo: Shivangi Bhasin)

Two dozen activists have been imprisoned under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). This law was last amended a year and a half ago, in July 2019, to allow the government to designate an individual as a terrorist without trial.

Agrarian protests in India have also been further developed in this article.

Honduras: freedom for the Guapinol and Rommel 8

An electoral fraud occurred in Honduras on January 27, 2018, which elevated the current president Juan Orlando Hernandez. The protests that it provoked suffered heavy repression with a toll of 33 dead and176 people imprisoned. Of these, all have now been released except Edwin Espinal and Rúul Alvarez, who after 18 months in prison are under house arrest and awaiting trial, to be held until next March, 2021. The other political prisoners are the Guapinol 8 and Rommel Herrrera Portillo. Also added to the list is Eduardo Urbina, exiled in the face of prosecution and state persecution.

Last December, a new sit-in (concentration) was held for the 8 defenders of water and life of Guapinol. They have been imprisoned for 15 months for defending the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers in the municipality of Tocoa (Colón) against the threat of mining extraction. Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kevin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahúm Hernández and Arnold Javier Alemán are being held in the Olanchito prison. Jeremías Martínez has been held in La Ceiba prison for two years. The General Coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) demands his release.

Defensores en Línea also reports on prisoner Rommel Herrrera Portillo, 24 years old, whose oral and public trial began on December 3, 2020. On January 14, 2021 a cultural event was held and on the 15th his hearing was to be held, but it was suspended due to medical incapacity of the judge. He is accused for allegedly damaging and burning the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa, on May 31, 2019, when they burned a yanta in a demonstration of the Platform in Defense of Health and Education. Rommel Baldemar was taken to the maximum security prison of La Tolva. Later, in October, due to his mental deterioration, with suicidal signs, he was transferred to the Mario Mendoza Psychiatric Hospital, at the request of COFADEH. During this time Rommel was unable to say goodbye to his grandfather who died last August. His visits have been considerably restricted, which is not positive for his psychological state either.

Argentina: 5 years of Milagro Sala’s imprisonment

January 16, 2020 marked five years since the political, social and indigenous leader Milagro Sala was imprisoned in Jujuy, in the north of Argentina. On that day people mobilized from different points of that province in San Salvador de Jujuy and also in Buenos Aires, Humahuaca, Libertador, San Pedro, Calilegua and others, convened by the organization to which Milagro has militated, the Tupac Amaru Neighborhood Organization.

On Saturday, January 16, 2016, Sala was arrested for participating in an encampment in front of the Government House of Jujuy, in protest against measures taken by the right-wing governor of Juntos por el Cambio, Gerardo Morales, who had been at the head of the provincial Executive for little more than a month. Although Sala was acquitted in that case, today she is still under house arrest and accumulates a total of six trials and two convictions for crimes related to the administration of funds for the construction of social housing, none of which are final.

Although there is no reason for her imprisonment, Sala has faced 16 criminal proceedings, most of which have been dismissed or annulled. The only one that persists is the «Pibes Villeros» case. In that process, it has been reliably demonstrated that witnesses, documentation, and expert witnesses for the parties involved were not allowed to be presented, nor was the press allowed access. In her case, political retaliation is mixed with reprisals for being a woman, indigenous, worker and leftist.

Esquivel participated in the mobilization and expressed that «justice is an appendix of the Executive Power, as is the Legislature, which is also a notary’s office for (Gerardo) Morales» and added that «human rights are not guaranteed». The march was preceded by a campaign of intimidation from the institutions and by police controls on the highways, and was carried out with a large police deployment, fenced off from the Government House.

Paraguay: Carmen Villalba, political prisoner in hunger strike

Carmen Villalba  (Foto: Resumen Latinoamericano )

Carmen Villalba is a militant of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) and political prisoner since 2004. Since January 2, 2021 she has been on hunger strike denouncing the forced disappearance of her daughter, which she attributes to the Paraguayan Joint Task Force. Carmen’s 14-year-old daughter is a cousin of Lilian Mariana and Maria Carmen Villalba, 11, who were murdered by the Joint Task Force in September last year. Several international organizations have denounced these deaths and have pointed out that the protocol followed by the Paraguayan government tries to hide the circumstances of their «deaths».

Chile: freedom for the people imprisoned in the Estallido

The social outburst or estallido in Chile had its peak from October 2019 to March 2020 when it was altered because of the confinement measures due to the coronavirus, but continued in different forms and intensity. The brutal toll was some 32 dead and 2400 civilians hospitalized, and some 27,432 people arrested, of which according to the National Prosecutor’s Office, 2,500 were imprisoned. Most of them were accused with fabricated charges or without evidence, with disproportionate sentences, with the aim of being exemplary, to scare first the accused people and that their cases would intimidate society so that the protest would stop or not be repeated. On December 22, 2020, debate began in the Chilean Senate on a bill to pardon those imprisoned, which had initially been proposed as an amnesty. President Piñera responded that he would prevent it. At the beginning of the year, social organizations once again demanded the release of those imprisoned in ek Estallido. In a more extensive article we have picked up this theme more intensively, illustrating it with significant cases.

USA: George Floyd assassination rebellion leads to 14,000 arrests

In a two-and-a-half week period from late May to mid-June 2019, police arrested 14,000 people participating in protests, according to a Washington Post analysis. According to experts, felony charges against Black Lives Matter protesters are a «suppression tactic» to quell anti-racist protests.

Of all the disproportionate cases we highlight the people arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah after throwing red paint outside the District Attorney’s offices on July 9. They face a life sentence. This case and more we pick up in another article focused on this topic.

Detención en Mineápolis (Foto: Unicornriot)

The Black Lives Matter movement served to restart, or in many cases begin the discussion about prison racism, closely tied to police and judicial racism, of course. In the U.S. prisons are arguably the greatest reflection of institutional and entrenched racism in society. Black people, just as they are 3 times more likely to be killed by police, are also 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. This means that 1 in 3 black people can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their lives, while only 1 in 17 white people are.

UK: Solidarity with the Colston Four in Bristol!

Four people charged by local police with «criminal damage to property» for action against the statue of racist slave trader and murderer Edward Colston in Bristol will go on trial on January 25. The statue of Colston was toppled and thrown into the Severn River by anti-racist protesters on June 7, 2020.

Six other people out of the thousands who took part in that event have previously been charged with the same offence to the tune of £5,000. However, four others are now charged with the same thing. This makes the case political, as they pick 4 people out of the thousands who attended the activity. It is clear that the aim is to make an example of the case. Their trial will be on January 25. So from here we send them our solidarity.

The demolition of racist statues was an activity that was replicated in all those places that have had a link with slavery and colonialism, and therefore subjugating other people merely on the basis of the color of their skin, and therefore continues to be glorified. More than 150 cases are counted in America and Europe. The removal of Colston’s statue as well as his name from public buildings and streets is a long-standing demand of the people of Bristol.



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