Mark Burton is the lawyer for Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera. Palmera is a political prisoner of the U.S., currently held in the Florence, Colorado supermax prison. Mark Burton is one of the few people allowed to visit and communicate with him. There is a campaign to Free Ricardo Palmera so he can take part in ongoing Colombian peace talks happening in Cuba. Ricardo Palmera is popularly known as Simón Trinidad in Colombia. For more information see www.FreeRicardoPalmera.org.
Fight Back!: Why is Ricardo Palmera a political prisoner of the U.S. government?
Mark Burton: Ricardo Palmera is a political prisoner as his extradition and prosecution were at the behest of the Colombian government for political reasons. It wanted to make an example of him to intimidate the opposition.
We now know from a cable, from U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, disclosed by Wikileaks, that President Uribe of Colombia asked the U.S. to extradite Ricardo Palmera in 2004. The U.S. government could not extradite him as there were no pending cases against him here. A case was then constructed by the Colombian and U.S. governments that allowed him to be extradited in December 2004.
Fight Back!: What are the conditions like for Ricardo Palmera in prison?
Burton: Mr. Palmera has been under Special Administrative Measures [SAM], while in custody from very shortly after his arrival in the U.S. in 2004. The SAM restricts his contact with people from outside, and inside, the prison, so he has been subject to excessive isolation.
Fight Back!: Why is it important to free Ricardo Palmera at this point in time?
Burton: The Colombian government and the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejercito Popular [FARC-EP] have been in formal peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba since August of 2012. There has been much progress reported in the peace talks and, perhaps for the first time in the history of the 50-year-old armed Colombian conflict, there is the possibility of a peace agreement.
Ricardo Palmera was an important peace negotiator in the last peace talks between the FARC-EP and the Colombian government in San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia from 1998-2002. Due to his work in the peace talks in San Vicente, Ricardo Palmera is reputed to be a skilled negotiator and adept diplomat. The Colombian peace talks would be enriched if Mr. Trinidad were to be released and allowed to join the negotiations, where he has been named as a delegate. He could be of great service to the cause of peace, and the reconciliation of Colombian society.