Óscar Fernando Chinchilla Banegas, Attorney General of Honduras
Lica. Karla Cueva, Secretary of State for Human Rights Affairs
November 30, 2020
Dear Attorney General Chinchilla and Secretary Cueva:
We are disturbed to learn of the knife attack against former political prisoner Raúl Álvarez during the evening of November 29 in Tegucigalpa. Suffering from serious stab wounds, he was taken to the Hospital Escuela (at the National Autonomous University) and admitted into surgery at 8:30pm. We are glad to learn that his health condition is stable.
Raúl Álvarez, a former police officer, was arrested along with Edwin Espinal in January 2018 during a period of nationwide protests about the legitimacy of the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernández. The two were accused of vandalizing the Marriott Hotel and a Burger King in Tegucigalpa during a large demonstration march. The government and the mainstream media steered the public’s attention away from the militarized crackdown on thousands of protesters and instead focused on broken windows and burned lobby furniture at the hotel.
Both men maintain that they were framed by authorities. Nevertheless, they were confined in “pretrial detention” for about 20 months in the maximum-security prison La Tolva, which is run by the Honduran military. There they received death threats from fellow inmates (cf our letter of July 19, 2019). An international solidarity campaign was conducted for more than a year until August 9, 2019 when both Raúl Álvarez and Edwin Espinal were released, pending trial. (The trial against Raúl Álvarez on the charges of aggravated damages and arson against Burger King was scheduled to begin in early December but has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Raúl Álvarez and Edwin Espinal continue to be active in the campaign to release a third political prisoner, Rommel Baldemar Herrera Portillo, who is still being held at “La Tolva” prison. He is imprisoned in “pretrial detention” because he is facing criminal charges of “damages” and “aggravated arson” against the United States Embassy in Honduras during a peaceful protest march in defense of public health and public education. Raúl Álvarez and Edwin Espinal, along with many other supporters, had been preparing to participate in a vigil and hunger fast in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in support of Rommel Herrera Portillo in early December.
We strongly urge that you
- conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against Raúl Álvarez, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice
- expedite the process to drop the false charges against Raúl Álvarez, Edwin Espinal, and Rommel Baldemar Herrera Portillo
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martinez