Guards of Honduras' Supreme Court prevented relatives of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres and members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) from entering the courtroom where the trial against Caceres' suspected-murderers is ongoing.
The COPINH, founded by Berta Caceres, alerted Thursday via Twitter the guards were denying them access. "Once again they violate the right of the victims to be at the hearings," they said.
Berta Caceres was an Indigenous Lenca who fought for years against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant on the Gualcarque River, a project led by Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA). Caceres was assassinated on Mar. 3, 2016, in La Esperanza in western Honduras. Gustavo Castro, a Mexican environmentalist, was also shot in the attack but survived.
The legal team of the Caceres family and the COPINH, who claim both DESA and the Honduran state are responsible for Berta's death, have denounced several irregularities, including reiterated delays in the trial and alleged bias by the court. Being barred from the trial is the latest.
On Oct. 26, 28 non-governmental organizations issued a joint statement calling on judicial officials and the state to ensure that the trial for the accused in Caceres' murder be impartial and transparent, after a judge barred the private lawyers of the Caceres family from attending the hearings.
The court argued that the lawyers and Caceres family had abandoned the case because they did not appear at a previous hearing. However, the family and lawyers did not appear because they had requested a new sentencing tribunal alleging the current officials had shown “bias in their decision to limit the scope of the evidence to be reviewed to an extent that it could result in impunity.”
Among the accused are Sergio Ramon Rodriguez, manager of Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA), in charge of constructing the hydroelectric dam Caceres opposed, Douglas Bustillo (former military man), and Sergio Rodriguez (military officer). In March, DESA’s Executive President David Castillo Mejia was charged with masterminding the crime but he will face a separate trial.