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Berta Cáceres murder trial set to begin in climate of suspicion

The prison trial of 8 males accused over the homicide of environmental activist Berta Cáceres will start in Honduras on Monday amid accusations of a political cover-up.

Cáceres used to be shot useless simply prior to middle of the night on 2 March 2016 at her house in L. a. Esperanza in western Honduras, after a protracted combat in opposition to a hydroelectric dam challenge on sacred Lenca territory.

The homicide sparked world condemnation and showed Honduras’ rating as essentially the most unhealthy nation on the planet for atmosphere and land rights defenders.

Gustavo Castro, a Mexican environmentalist, used to be additionally shot within the assault however survived by way of pretending to be useless. The 8 defendants also are accused of his tried homicide. All 8 deny the costs.

Cáceres, who used to be coordinator of the Council of In style and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), led opposition to the the world over financed Agua Zarca dam at the Gualcarque river, which brought about a wave of repression together with violent evictions, surveillance, sexual harassment, false prison fees, more than one dying threats and, in the end, her homicide.

The dam used to be authorized to the corporate Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa).

Cáceres’ circle of relatives have steered the government to habits a large investigation to seek out the culprits for the marketing campaign of terror in opposition to Cáceres and Copinh, quite than that specialize in the homicide purely as an remoted assault. A cache of telephone knowledge exposed by way of public prosecutors suggests an operation to kill Cáceres a month previous used to be aborted as a result of she used to be now not at house on my own.

Berta Cáceres



Berta Cáceres speaks to other folks close to the Gualcarque river in January 2015. : Tim Russo/AP

An investigation revealed by way of a world team of legal professionals final yr instructed a trend of infiltration, surveillance, prison conspiracy, illicit affiliation and corruption concentrated on Cáceres and Copinh relationship again months prior to the homicide.

The record concluded community of Honduran state brokers and senior Desa executives had been concerned within the occasions resulting in Cáceres’ dying. Desa denies any wrongdoing and rejects the record as biased.

At pre-trial public hearings in Tegucigalpa final week, the court docket rejected petitions by way of the circle of relatives’s legal professionals to permit skilled witness testimony concerning the roles, duties and connections between the accused as a part of an alleged prison construction.

The court docket additionally rejected requests to name Desa’s monetary supervisor, Daniel Atala, and individuals of the board as witnesses.

Bertita Zuniga Cáceres, the murdered chief’s daughter and present Copinh coordinator, condemned the court docket’s movements as “grossly negligent” and stated the verdict used to be a part of a much broader effort to hide the entire fact.

In August, the lawyer common used to be pressured to confess that investigators had failed to check a large number of cellphones, drugs, computer systems, arduous drives, USBs and paperwork confiscated all through the arrests and raids greater than two years previous. The admission got here after 35 requests by way of the circle of relatives’s legal professionals for get right of entry to to the proof were stonewalled.

Research is now underway however “it’s a race in opposition to time and not using a ensure it’ll be able or admitted by way of the judges”, stated an individual with shut wisdom of the case.

Cáceres, who used to be killed two days prior to her 45th birthday, used to be awarded the distinguished Goldman prize in 2015 for main the marketing campaign to forestall building of the dam. Her dying used to be essentially the most high-profile for the reason that 2009 military-backed coup in Honduras, which unleashed a wave of centered violence in opposition to neighborhood leaders, legal professionals, newshounds and human rights defenders.

Two of the defendants are at once related to Desa: Sergio Rodríguez Orellana, Desa’s communities and environmental supervisor, and US-trained former military lieutenant Douglas Bustillo, the corporate safety leader between 2013 and 2015. Cáceres accused each males of threatening her and Copinh colleagues, which they deny.

Two others have navy hyperlinks. Mariano Díaz Chávez is an energetic US-trained particular forces main who prior to now served in Iraq with coalition forces and as a UN peacekeeper. Diazhad served because the particular forces intelligence leader. He skilled with Bustillo, and the pair remained shut.

The Gualcarque River



The Gualcarque River, sacred to native indigenous communities and the website of the debatable Agua Zarca dam. : Giles Clarke/World Witness

Henry Javier Hernández Rodríguez, a former particular forces solider who labored beneath the command of Diaz, is the one suspect who admits being at Cáceres’ space at the evening of the homicide. Hernández, who used to be arrested in Mexico in January, denies killing Cáceres. The previous soldier used to be running in personal safety with Bustillo on the time of the homicide.

A Dad or mum investigation into the homicide discovered that Cáceres gave the impression on an army hitlist given to US-backed elite forces simply months prior to she used to be murdered. The homicide used to be performed like a “well-planned operation designed by way of navy intelligence”, a prison supply informed the Dad or mum. The defence minister brushed aside the allegations as a smear marketing campaign in opposition to the rustic’s defense force.

In March, Desa’s govt president David Castillo Mejia, used to be detained and can face trial one at a time. Castillo, a US-trained former intelligence administrative center, is accused of masterminding the crime. Attesting after his arrest, Castillo strongly denied any hyperlink to the homicide and stated he and Cáceres had been actually pals.

Desa insists the corporate has been wrongly centered by way of prosecutors because of force from world human rights teams, the media and Copinh.

“There’s been a fraudulent marketing campaign to hyperlink blameless other folks to a capital crime with completely no proof … That is an financial assault in opposition to marketers seeking to convey jobs to Central The usa,” stated Desa’s attorney Robert Amsterdam. “The failure of the federal government to percentage knowledge must ring alarm bells with any person who cares about justice.”

On the time of her dying, Cáceres used to be concerned about a large number of political and social struggles.

A spokesman for the general public prosecutor’s administrative center stated disclosure laws were adopted. “We’re assured concerning the proof in opposition to the 9 males charged on account of our multidisciplinary crew investigation supported by way of American investigators.

“The investigation to seek out the remainder highbrow authors [masterminds] continues however the case is nearly resolved.”

The trial is anticipated to run till 19 October.

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