Berta Cáceres murder case: David Castillo to face trial
Announcement comes hours before the fifth anniversary of the Lenca defender’s murder.
Roberto David Castillo Mejía is a Honduran businessman, former government employee for the state energy agency, and later Executive Director of the company in charge of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project: Desarrollos Energéticos S.A (DESA).
Berta Cáceres and the Lenca community from Rio Blanco opposed the installation of DESA’s project on the Gualcarque River. The project was granted a 20-year concession on the river through an agreement signed during the dictatorship following the 2009 coup d’état against Manuel Zelaya.
Castillo is also a former military intelligence officer who graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point. He was arrested at the San Pedro Sula Airport in March 2018, two years after Lenca defender Berta Cáceres was murdered at her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, in Honduras. His plan was to flee the country after being accused of being one of the masterminds of her murder.
Since then, the businessman has been in pre-trial detention. His defence lawyers have managed to suspend the preliminary hearings 11 times, where the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the legal representatives of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) were to submit 88 pieces of evidence against him.
Finally, on 1 March, a few hours before the 5th anniversary of the crime against the former COPINH Coordinator, the Honduran Judiciary established that there was sufficient evidence to take Castillo to oral and public trial between 6-30 April 2021 in a Tegucigalpa court.
MORE THAN ENOUGH REASONS
COPINH reported that during the preliminary hearings, the Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted 51 pieces of evidence including: “Phone records from Castillo, records of search orders and analyses of communications between David Castillo and people who have been already convicted over the murder of Berta,” among them former military officers and hitmen reportedly paid by DESA Executives to murder Cáceres.
Meanwhile, the legal representatives of the Cáceres family submitted 21 and 16 pieces of evidence respectively, among them expert opinions about telecommunications, undue networks of power, anthropological and gender analyses, and testimonies from witnesses of the attacks by Castillo against Berta Cáceres.
The lawyers of the Cáceres family requested the members of the Atala family linked to DESA company to appear as witnesses. The Honduran court established that Daniel Atala should be called to stand as witness, but they refused to call Jacobo Atala, Jose Eduardo Atala and Pedro Atala, who also had managing roles in DESA.
COPINH criticised that the Court “dismissed” the reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “where our comrade Berta Cáceres exposed the threats and attacks she experienced in the hands of DESA employees, including David Castillo.” The court also “dismissed the expert analysis with a gender perspective with which they aimed to prove that Berta’s condition as a woman and social leader was an aggravating circumstance of the crime.”
“David Castillo is a key actor, connecting the perpetrators of Berta’s murder with the masterminds, who still go unpunished. We want it to be a fair trial where all rights are respected. Anything that is done wrong will be to the detriment of the search for justice,” said Bertha Zúniga, daughter of the Lenca defender and Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) in this interview with Real World Radio.
Five years after the murder, the #JusticeForBerta demand is a key struggle for the new generation of Honduran defenders, as explained in this report by LatFem.
Among the main activities planned to remember Berta and pay homage to all the martyrs murdered and the people who continue fighting to defend life, COPINH is organising a “Justice for Berta” online concert. With renowned performers such as Roger Waters and Rebeca Lane, among others, the show will take place on 2 March on FBLive and the YouTube channel: Comunicación COPINH
7 pm Central America and Mexico
10 pm Argentina
9 pm Venezuela
8 pm New York
5 pm California
2 am Amsterdam
The organisation will also hold a press conference at 9:00 am Honduras time.