Miguel Angel Beltran, a long-time target of the country's far-right political forces, was freed from a Bogota prison Thursday night after a Supreme Court ruling reversed a lower court ruling that had erroneously found he was a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) based on faulty evidence.
News of Beltran's impending release was revealed by the professor from the National University himself in a video message shared by the Marcha Patriotica social movement.
In his message, Beltran expressed hope for the “new political movement” set to emerge as a result of the conclusion of peace talks between the government and rebels.
Beltran was pegged as a collaborator with the FARC after files were found allegedly linking him to the rebel group on a computer allegedly found at the camp site of Commander Raul Reyes.
Prosecutors allege that Beltran was actually “Jaime Cienfuegos,” described on Reyes' computer as an intellectual tasked with helping fund the rebel organization.
The reliability of the information on the computer has been called into question on numerous occasions and the Colombian Supreme Court has ruled that material from the computer cannot be considered evidence.
Beltran was detained in 2009 but then ordered free due to a lack of evidence.
In 2013, then-Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez ordered the professor fired and stripped Beltran of his right to teach at public universities for 13 years.
Beltran was later found guilty of rebellion in 2014 and was arrested in August 2015 and sent to the notorious La Picota prison in Bogota. While jailed, Beltran maintained his political activities and even participated in a hunger strike in February 2016 in solidairty with his fellow inmates protesting the conditions in the prison.
His supporters say the persecution of Beltran was the result of his political ideas and they consider him a political prisoner.
"Miguel Angel was judged for studying and writing about social movements, and to condemn him for his right to freedom of opinion is a violation of the Constitution,” said Luis Felipe Milan, national secretary of Colombia's professor's union, ahead of a hearing at the Supreme Court in January.
Upon his release, Beltran spoke out against the conditions in Colombian jails and called for the release of other political prisoners.
Beltran maintained throughout that he was not a member of the FARC. In a September 2014 interview with Semana magazine, the academic said he was a member of the leftist Patriotic Union party in his youth and met with Raul Reyes during previous peace talks between the government and the FARC.
His work focuses on the root causes of armed conflicts and he was reviled by former President Alvaro Uribe.