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Costa Rican Lawmakers Demand Release of Political Prisoners


San Jose, September 24 (teleSUR-RHC)-- Costa Rican lawmakers from the left-wing Broad Front (FA) party and the far-right Libertarian Movement (ML) joined forces for the first time to demand the release from prison of two community leaders unjustly sentenced to 12 years in jail.

The lawmakers marched late Monday from the parliamentary building to the Constitutional Court in a symbolic gesture to pressure the justice system to free the imprisoned leaders.

Orlando Barrantes, a farm worker’s union leader, and Ivan Angulo, a local official, were detained 15 years ago after a strike in the Caribbean city of Guapiles that ended in violence between demonstrators and police officers. Angulo and Barrantes are apparently falsely accused of kidnapping and extortion of two police officers.

The attorney general’s office has not presented any evidence to sustain their accusations against the two leaders.

Two hours before the events took place in 2000, Barrantes was speaking at a public square with the locals, urging them to organize to demand justice for the farmers and the people affected by toxic agro-industrial product Nemagon, which causes infertility and kidney failure.
   
After joining the strike for some 30 minutes, Barrantes headed back to his house and did not participate in the violent events, according to local reports.

Angulo handed over his loudspeaker to demonstrators for them to use, and as the protest continued, he followed the march to get his loudspeaker back, but after the demonstration intensified, he decided to leave.

After 15 years of investigations and judicial processes, which have resulted in six different trials, the men were sentenced last week to 12 years in jail.

The ruling came despite video footage and testimonies of witnesses that demonstrated that both Barrantes and Angulo were no longer among the protesters when the violence erupted. And in spite of all this, the judge ordered six more months of preventive detention against the two defendants.

Lawyers for Barrantes and Angulo have denounced the trial as being politically charged, and that the court wants to send out a message to community leader organizing to demand their rights to refrain from protesting. The case has sparked the outrage of human rights activists.
Edited by Ivan Martínez
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