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Colombian Musician-Activist Fights For His Freedom



Jota Ramos (Jhon Javier Ramos Laurido), is a passionate artist and social leader who has dedicated his life to using his artistic talents to bring about positive change in his community together with his artistic collective Haga Que Pase (Make It Happen). With a deep-rooted commitment to social justice and a powerful creative voice, Jota - a Fair Play Ambassador - has become an inspiration to many as he fearlessly tackles pressing issues through his music, though this has come with a price... From receiving multiple death threats, to having to having to enter Amnesty International's protection programme in 2018 Jota is no stranger to adversity and is now once more facing a new battle against injustice.

Below you will find a review of the events thus far, based on the information that Fair Play has received from Jota and his team. It is a call for a fair legal process for the Colombian artist and that the authorities handle the situation with integrity, especially considering the long history of false accusations by the police against the countries Colombian activists.


Background


Born and raised in Villa Rica, Colombia, Jota discovered his artistic calling at a young age. Growing up in a vibrant and culturally diverse community, he witnessed firsthand the struggles and injustices faced by marginalised groups across Colombia. Determined to make a difference, Jota found solace and expression in art, using it as a medium to shed light on issues effecting and empower his community. Over the years he has actively engaged with his community, immersing himself in grassroots initiatives and lending his creative talents to empower others. Through various art workshops, performances and community based agriculture, he has inspired countless individuals, especially young people, to explore their own artistic potential and use it as a tool for personal expression and social change. In 2018, his musical collective Haga Que Pase were recognised as Fair Play Winners for their song "Juntos Ganamos" and travelled to Denmark to perform at Transparency International's International Anti-Corruption Conference together with other musical activists from around the world. Through his art, Jota works to bridge the gap between creativity and activism, reminding us that art has the power to transcend boundaries, raise awareness and spark meaningful engagement.




The Case


On Friday, March 24, at approximately 20:30, the social leader and artist Jhon Javier Ramos Laurido, also known as Jota Ramos met with two friends at at a roadside barbecue restaurant, located on Carrera 20, Calle 9 A, 48kms from the municipality of Dagua. They had arrived there in a white Dimas 4x4 pickup truck, parking it near the restaurant, on the left side, losing visibility of the vehicle for approximately one hour whilst in the restaurant. In the back of the truck there was a 48cm long, 28 cm wide and 30cm high plastic cooler, inside of which there were three vacuum-packed bags of chicken breasts that Jota was transporting. This plastic cooler was tightly tied with a rope.


At 21:30 they continued on, driving to the vicinity of the central park of the municipality of Dagua, where they made several purchases and returned, parking the vehicle again a few meters from the aforementioned restaurant. While there, at approximately 23:30, two motorcycles from the Dagua police arrived with 4 police agents. They approached Jhon Javier directly and requested to search their vehicle, to which the community leader agreed without resistance.


Immediately and in seemingly strange circumstances, one of the agents directly approached the ice cream container, which he opened within a few seconds, without any effort, and extracted a package from the upper part, claiming "Affirmative boss, there is plenty of it!"; when Jhon Javier approached, he observes that the cooler had been unsealed and inside it were now packages that he did not recognise, different from the three vacuum-packed bags of chicken he had packed in the container.


Jhon Javier and his two associates were taken to the police station in Dagua. There, they were interrogated by a person in civilian clothes in an isolated room of the police station, who would not identify himself by name or rank. For 10 minutes this person addressed the leader Jhon Javier, pressuring him to give information and names, insinuating that he belonged to a drug trafficking group. After this, another agent asked Jota to sign a document that would clearly incriminate him in what Ramos claims were crimes he did not commit. He therefore declined to sign it, the Agent then returned again requesting the signature of a new document, this time, the description of the crime was blank. Again, the leader and artist refused to sign it. For the third time he was pressured to sign, this time a document of "declaration of good treatment" by the agents who captured him, which he signed without having had the possibility of being legally assisted.


From that moment on, he was held in undignified and subhuman conditions for six days in the Dagua police station. During this time he was not given the conditions to meet and speak with his lawyer. Until the fifth day of detention there were no conditions to see his family. During the hearing that followed, he was not allowed a technical defense and was accused, without any proof, of belonging to a criminal group.



On Friday 31 March 2023, he was placed under house arrest at his place of residence in the city of Cali. It has now been a year that Jota has been under house arrest and has already faced 5 hearings, where the Colombian justice system has still not been able to prove that he is guilty of belonging to a drug trafficking network. At the end of the hearing period, the judge has given a ruling date of June 25, 2024, until then we will not know the court's final decision. On February 6, Jota should have regained his freedom due to the expiration of terms, however, the court his now scheduled the hearing for this procedure on February 28, 2024, leaving him illegally detained for a further 22 days.

It is saddening to know that this fight is not over yet for Jota and his family who continue to try to prove his innocence in the face of Colombian justice system.


A Call for Support:


Jota Ramos is more than an artist; he is a force of compassion, empathy, and resilience. Through his art and community engagement, he has become a beacon of hope, inspiring others to rise above adversity and work towards a more just and equitable world.




Jota stands at the forefront of a battle for artistic freedom and the right to express oneself without fear of persecution. As he faces these legal challenges, it is essential that we stand in solidarity with his fight for justice and a fair legal hearing. By rallying behind Jota, we send a powerful message that artists and social leaders like him should be celebrated, protected, and provided with the platform they need to advocate for change.


If you would like to support you can reach out to Jota's management at hagaquepase@gmail.com.


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Below are several links to the public audio of the official hearings:










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