The trial of the alleged mastermind behind the March 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres began in Honduras on April 6. Cáceres was slain when a squad of gunmen invaded her home at the village of La Esperanza, Intibucá department. A visiting Mexican friend, Gustavo Castro, was also shot but survived. Cáceres had been campaigning against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, then under construction by company Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA). Four of eight defendants were each sentenced in December 2019 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres, and 16 years for the attempted murder of Castro. Three others were sentenced to 30 years as co-conspirators in the crime. In the new trial that opened in a Tegucigalpa court, a former DESA president and military intelligence officer, Roberto David Castillo, is charged with being the “intellectual author” of the murder.
Cáceres’ daughter Laura Zúñiga and international observers were unable to enter the courtroom, according to the independent Observation Mission, which is monitoring the trial. Another daughter of Cáceres, Bertha Zúñiga, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular & Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), said that the trial is an opportunity to “reconstruct the events” that occurred on the day of the assassination.
Cáceres’ mother Austra Berta Flores, her brothers, and the Association for a More Just Society issued a statement urging the court for “prompt justice, impartiality and judicial independence.” They also expressed concern over the upcoming expiration of the preventive detention of Castillo, warning that he could “go free, flee the country or take his life to avoid further investigations and stop any process against the other intellectual authors” of the murder. (EFE)
However, the very day after the trial opened, it was suspended in response to a request by Castillo’s defense team for a change of venue. The judge ordered procedures on hold through April 30 while an appeals court considers the request. (AP)
Photo by UN Environment via Wikimedia Commons