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Victory in Ricardo Palmera case: U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth forced to declare mistrial

By Angela Denio

Washington, D.C. – Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera won another victory against the Bush administration and U.S. policy in court today. Judge Royce Lamberth was forced to declare a mistrial.

U.S. prosecutors are refusing to comment on a their loss in a case where they claimed Professor Palmera and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are drug traffickers. The mistrial was declared as result of a hung jury. After four weeks of U.S. prosecutors telling the jurors Palmera was a narco-trafficker, seven of the jurors wanted a not guilty verdict. This is a significant victory for Colombian freedom fighter Palmera. It destroys the U.S. government’s attempt to paint the FARC as drug runners and terrorists. Despite this, U.S. prosecutor McNeil, with plenty of money and staff, is claiming he will try again.

Ricardo Palmera joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia 20 years ago, after mass repression, torture and assassination of political activists proved to him that in Colombia the road to peaceful change is closed. In court Palmera explains that his decision to take up arms was one that was made for the sake of Colombia: “It is our duty; my generation has never known one day of peace in Colombia.”

He told about how the decision he made was a heart-wrenching one – watching his family leave the country, leaving his home, risking his life – but as he put it in his own words, “I did not have the courage to take off running and leave all the dead bodies of the people who had struggled behind me. I had to choose between my family and the desire to work for real change in Colombia.”

Repeatedly, the U.S. prosecution tried to find ties between the FARC and narco-trafficking, stretching the truth beyond its limits. In talking about the prosecution’s witnesses, defense attorney Robert Tucker told the jury, “These people were just flat out intimidated…some of the testimony has been absurd, in fact some of the evidence is totally, totally insulting.”

After being asked to admit to ties to coca countless time, Professor Palmera himself spoke about the problem of cocaine in Colombia. “Farmers growing coca leaf is a big problem in Colombia. A serious problem that affects the entire country economically, socially and politically as well as affecting its international relations…The poor believe in the mirage of coca production to relieve them of their misery.”

During his trial Professor Palmera testified that in the entire 20 years he has been in the FARC he never knew of a single cocaine lab controlled by the FARC, that he has never encouraged another human being to grow coca and that he has never exchanged drugs for money.

After five days of jury deliberations Judge Lambert was forced to declare the mistrial.

Tom Burke, of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, said, “What a joy to see Ricardo Palmera beat the U.S. empire again! It is no wonder the Bush administration is losing its wars in Iraq and Colombia, when they cannot defeat one lone revolutionary in a Washington D.C. court with everything stacked against him.”

Burke continued, “This is a political trial that should not be taking place in the U.S. Ricardo Palmera is a prisoner of war – a dirty war the U.S. is fighting to benefit big corporations like Occidental, Drummond and Chiquita banana. For three years Ricardo Palmera was held in solitary confinement under special administrative measures. We say it is time to set him free. Free Ricardo Palmera!”

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