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Honduras: Why Arbitrary Ruling to Move Guapinol Trial Location Is Repudiable

news source: GuapinolResiste

In just three weeks, eight water defenders from Guapinol and Sector San Pedro in Honduras will go to trial. In what is yet another arbitrary ruling, judges Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Ricardo Rodríguez Barahona and Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar notified the legal team yesterday that the trial location will move to La Ceiba - their motivation? Ensuring no one exercizes their right to protest during the legal proceedings.

After the recent bond hearing concluded, just a couple of weeks ago, the defenders were told by the Judges that the court would rule on whether or not to release them within 24 hours - which is what the Criminal Procedural Code establishes. The family members of the defenders didn't wait for the ruling outside the court - they traveled by busloads more than an hour away to the jail in Olanchito to be with their loved ones - albeit with a fence between them - to await - with hope - the verdict. Late that night, after no news and after the Court clearly passed the established time to deliver its ruling, the families returned home.

The following day, with still no news, they made another hour-long trip to Trujillo. This time, to the Court. Outside, entire families and their communities congregated peacefully, waiting for the verdict, under police watch. They shared food, chanted, and used the time to denounce the environmental destruction being caused by illegal mining in the Carlos Escaleras National Park by the Grupo Emco open-pit iron oxide mining project. They held posters and banners of their loved ones, hoping they would be finally freed after 26 months of detention deemed arbitrary by the UN.
 The Court told them "not to worry" and that the ruling would be "based on the law." The families were told that the verdict was imminent - the ruling was written, and as soon as the judges signed it would be shared. Time went by.

The verdict never came - and the Court started saying it actually had three days to emit a verdict - in complete contradiction to the CPP and its commitment two days earlier to emit the ruling in a timely fashion. Sources inside the court said that the judges were waiting for a call from Supreme Court President Roland Argueta before they could emit their ruling.

When finally late in the afternoon the verdict came - denying the request to change the detention measures - heartbroken families gathered to comfort each other and to denounce the arbitrary decision of the court. Far from being "based in the law" the ruling had no sound legal arguments for upholding pretrial detention - just like all the other court decisions in the past 26 months. After every hearing to review the remand, instead of ruling immediately - as the Criminal Procedural Code states - courts have taken excessive time to rule and "get word" from above before emitting their sentence.
 After a press conference with the families, the Municipal Committee and its legal team at the courthouse gates to denounce the illegality of the sentence, everyone went home. Now, judges Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Ricardo Rodríguez Barahona and Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar paint the families and the Committee as the ones acting outside the law.

The families and the Committee denounce the participation of the Court in a stigmatization campaign against them and the detained water defenders and alert the national and international community of possible reprisals against the defenders, their families, the Committee and their supporters for the bad faith actions of the Trujillo Court.

Based on their actions, the Trujillo Court should not hear the trial of the Defenders. We denounce the collusion between the Judiciary and Lenir Perez/Grupo Emco to maintain the arbitrary detention of the defender; the lack of transparency and the failure to comply with basic due process guarantees. We demand judicial independence and impartiality and that the trial be moved to a suitable courtroom in Tegucigalpa to ensure full publicity, live transmission and in-person observation.

We demand #FreedomForGuapinol! They are innocent!