Wronged academic not in the clear yet

July 12, 2012

Your moving interview with the Colombian academic Miguel Ángel Beltrán ("Arrested, beaten, caged - but the state could not break him", News, 5 July) highlights the dangers academics around the world face for speaking out against state violence and social inequality.

Thanks to pressure from non-governmental organisation Justice for Colombia, the academic community and many Times Higher Education readers, last year the Colombian government dropped the false charges against Beltrán (it had claimed he was a terrorist) and released him after two years awaiting trial.

As the article makes clear, the academic has paid a heavy price for his freedom and we regret to inform you that his safety remains at risk.

Following serious death threats, Beltrán has been forced to live and work outside Colombia. However, his employer, the National University of Colombia, Bogotá, recently turned down a request to extend his sabbatical leave (citing his alleged failure to respond to a letter that it claims asked him to provide further details of his activities) and has demanded that he return to campus.

In the absence of any physical protection being guaranteed by the Colombian state, we are extremely concerned that Beltrán's life will be in grave danger if he returns to Bogotá.

Our two organisations have written to the university calling upon it to review its decision regarding Beltrán's sabbatical leave. We urge THE readers to continue to show their support for Beltrán and other academics under threat in Colombia and elsewhere.

Mariela Kohon, Director, Justice for Colombia

Sally Hunt, General secretary, University and College Union

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