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Bush criminalizes the fight for liberation: Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera convicted by U.S. court

By National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera.

On Monday, July 9, 2007, in the second trial on the same charges, Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera was convicted of conspiring to take hostages. The hostages are three U.S. military contractors – foreign mercenaries fighting in Colombia’s civil war. While conducting electronic spying, the three were shot down and captured over the territory held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Their capture and imprisonment takes place in the context of the Bush administration intervening more and more in Colombia’s civil war. The U.S. is fighting a dirty war in Colombia, with 800 U.S. military advisors and 500 U.S. military contractors. Like a small-scale Iraq war, the U.S. military arms, trains and directs the Colombian military and its paramilitary death squads. Bush and the U.S. generals are in charge. President Uribe takes orders. Uribe signed the papers to extradite Ricardo Palmera to the U.S., a violation of the Colombian people’s sovereignty.

The Colombian civil war pits the peasant and worker revolutionaries of the FARC against the wealthy and corrupt Colombian elite. The Bush administration fully supports President Uribe, as he becomes entangled in scandal after scandal involving narco-traffickers in his own government.

On the other side is the FARC – incorruptible, dynamic, growing and expanding, a force to be reckoned with. The FARC is attracting leaders like Ricardo Palmera, a college professor from a wealthy banking family, who seeks peace and justice, but sees no other avenue for reform and joins the revolution. The FARC promises to turn the world upside down.

Ricardo Palmera was a leading negotiator for peace and prisoner exchanges for the FARC. During a prisoner exchange negotiation, the U.S. kidnapped Palmera in Ecuador and extradited him to the U.S. in 2004. Along with FARC member Anayibe “Sonia” Rojas, he faces bogus criminal trials in U.S. courts.

There is no fair trial. Ricardo Palmera is held in solitary confinement, with no family visits, no friends, no reporters allowed. The only time he sees friendly faces is during his trial when supporters from across the country pack the courtroom. Palmera’s defense lawyer is handpicked by the U.S. government, given little resources, and allowed no witnesses. The U.S. prosecutor spends hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is allowed a stream of witnesses, many who are paid. It was hard for the U.S. government to lose, but lose they did.

Professor Palmera beat the U.S. government in the first case with his own testimony, compelling some jurors to refuse to find him guilty. Judge Hogan declared a mistrial. At the start of the second trial, on the same exact charges, public defender Bob Tucker caught Judge Hogan cheating with U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl. Against Hogan’s own ruling, the Judge and prosecutor conspired to find out from the jury foreperson why they lost. Judge Hogan was forced to step down – to recuse himself.

So now Ricardo Palmera is found guilty on one count of intent to take hostages. The jury appears deadlocked on the other charges and one can only imagine the horse trading taking place. The only surprise in the railroading of Ricardo Palmera is how bumbling and foolish the U.S. government has been.

Putting the FARC on trial in a U.S. criminal court as part of the Bush ‘war on terror’ is intended to criminalize revolutionaries. In the eyes of most Colombians and Americans who know of the case, it is more proof that the U.S. empire is growing desperate and acting wildly in an attempt to hold its grip.

The Colombian people understand there is no justice in the Colombian system, with impunity for the powerful and wealthy. Now too, they understand American injustice as the White House criminal Scooter Libby skips free under Bush’s orders, while Ricardo Palmera returns to a lonely prison cell. Palmera can hold his head high, knowing he struggles with the people of Colombia against poverty, misery and death brought by the U.S. dirty war in Colombia. Professor Palmera will be preparing himself for the next criminal trial where he will – unbelievably – be charged with drug trafficking to the U.S.

We will be mobilizing protests and filling the courtroom starting around Aug. 20. Join us to free Ricardo Palmera!

The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera

[email protected]

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