On October 19, a Tegucigalpa court held a hearing to begin the trial over the murder of the Lenca people defender, Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on March 2nd, 2016, at her home in La Esperanza (Intibucá). The court announced the beginning of the oral and public trial, despite the lawyers of Berta Cáceres family´s call for the judges to be replaced. But on Friday, the court ordered to remove the lawyers of Berta Cáceres´ family and the lawyer of Gustavo Castro, whose attempted homicide is part of the same proceedings.
The lawyers argue that Friday´s hearing to try the eight men accused of murdering Berta Cáceres was “illegitimate”, as all decisions made on Friday. The decision by the Constitutional Court about the abuse of authority and the violation of due process by the judges is still pending.
That same day, the court ordered to remove the lawyers without an official notification and granted the Prosecution Office the legal representation of the victims´ interests. The trial continued on Monday 22nd under irregularities, without the victims´ representation in the process.
It is worth remembering the irregularities denounced by Cáceres´ daughters and their lawyers against the Prosecution Office, questioning that its actions in the two and a half years of investigation tended to protect the presumed masterminds of DESA company.
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) stated that: “The court´s actions come as retaliation for the claims of the victims´ lawyers, which made the authorities uncomfortable for having to ensure an independent and impartial trial. Also, the court´s arbitrary decision makes it clear how the Honduran authorities are committed to keeping in total impunity the criminal structure responsible for the systematic attacks against COPINH and Berta Cáceres´ murder”.
“The illegal and illegitimate” actions by the court made up by Esther Carolina Flores, José Anaín Orellana, Delia Lizeth Villatoro and Jocelyn Marie Donaire “will be denounced before the corresponding entities, as part of the struggle for justice and against impunity”, stated the organization.
The victims and their lawyers will continue demanding a trial that ensures Independence and impartiality, together with indigenous peoples, the Honduran people and the international community, and for the conviction of all material authors and masterminds of Berta Cáceres´ murder.
During a visit in Honduras to study the judicial case of Berta Cáceres´ murder and meet with diplomatic, governmental and justice authorities, Spanish MP Pedro Arrojo (of Podemos Party) held a press conference where he said that the court´s decision to remove the lawyers caused “widespread consternation”.
“It is clear that this decision is no good to provide credibility to the judicial process in the eyes of the public opinion. It is a negative issue (in the justice process)”, said Arrojo. He also stated that he is gravely concerned about the perception of the family and COPINH about the obscurity of how investigations have been carried out: “impunity is best protected with obscurity”, he stated.
The Spanish MP added that the “founded” fear of Cáceres´ daughters is that after many procedural mistakes and in the rush to end this trial, “there is the serious risk that once a decision is made, there could be an appeals process to overturn the decision and taint the future trial against the masterminds, causing a judicial catastrophe”.
Against this, the MP stated his wish for Berta Cáceres´ trial to be “a turning point with reference to the impunity that exists not only in Honduras, but in all Latin America around the crimes against the defenders of the territories”. “These crimes are not perpetrated by common criminals, these are committed by paid criminals, with masterminds and highly powerful political schemes behind them”, he added.
Lastly, the MP told the media that in meetings held with governmental authorities and the Prosecution, he was ensured that they were continuing the investigation to find the masterminds of the crime, that points to the Atala Zablah family, according to COPINH.