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FARC member ‘Sonia’ sentenced to 17 years

Colombian revolutionary proclaims innocence
by staff |
July 3, 2007
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Washington, D.C. - Anayibe Rojas Valderama, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) also know as ‘Sonia’, was sentenced here, July 2 by Judge James Robertson to nearly 17 years in federal prison on charges of shipping cocaine to the United States.

“What took place in this courtroom today was anything but justice. This is a frame-up, pure and simple,” stated Mick Kelly outside the D.C. courtroom. Kelly, who helps lead the defense work for another Colombian political prisoner, Ricardo Palmera, added, “In the course of the trial the prosecution called on a band of professional liars to testify. There was the $15,000-a month DEA informant, Rocio Alvarez. Then there were the tales of the retired Colombian National Police officer, Mauricio Moreno, who spoke of plots to sell cocaine to the paramilitaries and then steal it. And then there was ‘Juan Valdez’ whose testimony was a collection of lies.”

During the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Carmen Hernandez pressed for a new trial. She cited the fact that the testimony of ‘Juan Valdez’ was completely discredited and this amounted to new evidence. She also pointed out that her interviews with the jurors after Sonia’s conviction indicated that they were influenced by the ‘Juan Valdez’ testimony. Judge Robinson agreed that the ‘Juan Valdez’ testimony was dubious at best, but then he ruled against a new trial.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Hernandez told the press that the trial is not the way things are supposed to work under the constitution. Hernandez was not allowed to make needed investigations and the instructions to the jury were flawed.

Sonia speaks out

Before she was sentenced, Sonia, who was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, told the court that she was innocent of the charges. She repeatedly proclaimed her innocence throughout her statement.

She related that she had been born to a poor farm family in an outlying area without a government presence. She only received two years of schooling and had to attend school barefoot because of her family’s poverty. She got her first pair of shoes at age 14. It was because of the conditions in her area that she joined the FARC guerillas.

She was arrested in February of 2004 on her brother’s farm and charged with rebellion. However, she was extradited to the United States 13 months later on charges of export of large amounts of cocaine to the United States - the charge she continues to deny.

She asked how it can be explained that, if she was a major drug dealer, her family continues to live in poverty and does not have enough to eat. She also said that family members of Colombians convicted on similar charges in the United States cannot visit because they are denied visas. Even if her family could get visas they could not afford airfare to visit her.

The Bush administration labeled her as a ‘terrorist’ because of her FARC membership. Because of that label, she was kept in solitary confinement for two years of her time here, in spite of never having been charged with infraction of prison rules. She was subjected to severe treatment, for instance being allowed to bathe only twice a week - and then only in handcuffs. Sonja described her solitary confinement as “psychological torture.”

Sonia noted that during a brief period she had been held in the general population of the District of Columbia jail and had been able to study and learn some English. She asked that the ‘terrorist’ label be lifted from her so that she not be held in maximum security and would be able to continue to study and learn.

“It is sad that a lie has become justice in this court because I have not done what they say I have,” said Sonja.

More to come

According to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Fisher, “The prosecution of these FARC members, the first of its kind in the United States, was made possible because of the exceptional cooperation of Colombian authorities and the hard work and efforts of the DEA agents and federal prosecutors who, working together, were essential to the successful conclusion of this important case.”

Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera responds: “This case demonstrates that the Bush administration will stop at nothing to criminalize the struggle for free and independent Colombia. Sonia is not a drug dealer. She is hero who is being made to suffer for her efforts to bring justice to Colombia. Her frame-up was made in the U.S.A. and was assisted by Colombia’s death-squad government.”

In a related case, the trial of FARC spokesman and peace negotiator Ricardo Palmera has moved to the jury phase.

Burke urges all progressive people to support the efforts for the immediate release of Colombian political prisoners held in the U.S.