The trial of eight people suspect of murdering the indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres will start on Monday in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and prosecutors are being accused of intentionally hiding evidence.
The accused are Emerson Duarte Meza, Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, Elvin Heriberto Rapalo Orellana, Henrry Javier Hernandez, Oscar Aroldo Torres Velasquez , Mariano Diaz Chavez, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo and Sergio Ramon Rodriguez Orellana.
Some are former employees of the DESA company, in charge of constructing the hydroelectric dam on Gualcarque River against which Caceres was fighting. Others are military officers.
David Castillo, former DESA manager, will be judged in a different trial.
The daughter of Caceres, Berta Zuñiga, hopes the courts sentence them “with all the strength and evidence, leaving no doubt these people were responsible,” she told En la Plaza show.
Zuñiga says their legal team is looking to show the links between the hydroelectric company and the government.
“There’s an alliance we need to dismantle, and that’s why the legal process is so important,” she said. “If we sentence these people, the hypothesis that this crime was about something else will be invalid.”
The trial will be observed by an international team involving 17 different human rights organizations and the sentence will be announced on October 19.
“This fight has transcended and we call for the Honduran people to walk with us, because this event affected the Caceres family and the Peoples’ and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh),” continued Zuñiga.
The trial has been delayed several times, plagued by irregularities that have been denounced by the prosecuting team. In September 2016, attorneys allegedly withheld evidence, including computers and personal cell phones.
“We have prepared a solid argumentation line,” said Ariel Madrid, from the prosecuting team, “but with the evidence that has been admitted into the process, it will be difficult to hold.”
The court also rejected several key witnesses, including four members of the Atala Zablah family, the biggest shareholder of DESA.
An independent investigation commissioned by the prosecuting team on an International Group of Experts (GAIPE) concluded that employees of DESA, along with state and private security forces, took part in the crime.
“DESA had a kind of criminal structure that threatened the people and destroyed the social fabric of the communities,” said Miguel Angel Urbina, member of the GAIPE.
However, the report has been dismissed by the defending team and will have no role in the trial.
Caceres, an indigenous Lenca, fought for years against the construction of a hydroelectric project on Gualcarque River. Her activism earned her the prestigious Goldman prize.
She was murdered on March 3, 2016, having previously denounced threats by DESA.