Berta Caceres: Honduras executive jailed for 22 years over murder | Crime News


David Castillo, a former prime enterprise govt discovered responsible for his function within the assassination of Honduran Indigenous chief Berta Caceres, has been sentenced to 22 and a half years in jail by a Honduran courtroom.

Castillo, a US-trained former Honduran military intelligence officer and enterprise govt, was the president of Desarrollos Energeticos Sociedad Anonima (DESA), which was constructing the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Indigenous Lenca territory in northwestern Honduras.

Caceres, as the top of the Council of Organized Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), had been essentially the most seen and vocal member of the resistance to the dam’s development.

However after years of threats, she was assassinated by successful squad in her residence within the city of La Esperanza on March 2, 2016.

Castillo was accused by Honduran prosecutors of being one of many prime links in a posh chain of command that organised and directed the hit squad, which included former and active-duty members of the Honduran navy in addition to sicarios, or employed assassins.

A Honduran courtroom discovered Castillo responsible of being a co-collaborator in her homicide on July 5 final 12 months. In December 2019, seven individuals, together with one other DESA govt, have been jailed for between 30 and 50 years for his or her roles in Caceres’s homicide.

Castillo’s sentencing is the end result of a six-year push for justice in what was one of the vital high-profile assassinations to have rocked the Central American nation. However many Hondurans allege that complicity within the killing goes larger and that the complete extent of the community which killed Caceres stays at massive.

“The sentence reaffirms the significance of the necessity to search for the mental authors of the killing,” ‘Bertita’ Zuniga Caceres, the murdered environmentalist’s daughter and present head of COPINH, informed Al Jazeera. “However 22 years is nothing in comparison with the lack of a grand companera, my mom.”

Castillo in a white shirt in a police van being escorted to court by armed police officers
Roberto Castillo is dropped at courtroom for sentencing. The previous DESA govt was sentenced to greater than 20 years of jail for the killing of environmentalist and Indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres [Elmer Martinez/AP Photo]

Honduras is likely one of the most harmful nations on the earth for land and water defenders, with greater than 120 activists killed since 2010, in keeping with human rights group World Witness. Lots of them have been killed defending their lands or rivers from mining, agro-business, or dam initiatives.

What made Caceres completely different was her worldwide standing: she gave talking excursions on Indigenous rights and environmental wrestle all through the Americas and gained the Goldman Prize, or “Inexperienced Nobel,” for her work main the resistance to the Agua Zarca dam challenge.

As an activist and chief of COPINH, which she cofounded in 1993, she had been one of the vital high-profile leaders to assist deliver collectively Honduras’s disparate social actions within the wake of the 2009 coup.

Her killing was seen by many as a sign of an setting through which a militarised authorities, which allegedly favoured corrupt enterprise pursuits and has been accused of complicity with organised crime, facilitated the homicide of Indigenous and environmental defenders. 

Castillo had been skilled at West Level, the US navy academy, and served within the Honduran navy within the mid-2000s.

He later grew to become a authorities employee for Honduras’s Nationwide Electrical Power firm, the place he was later accused (PDF) of illegally giving overpriced contracts and illicit permits to firms he would later run as part of the dam challenge. A case presently underway in Honduras, often called Fraud on the Gualcarque, is figuring out whether or not the claims are true.

The Agua Zarca challenge was to be constructed on the Galcarque River, which holds non secular significance for the Lenca individuals and is a vital supply of water. The endeavor was marred with controversy from the start.

Anti-dam protester Tomas Garcia was killed in 2013, whereas state safety forces and personal safety operatives dedicated widespread violence towards Indigenous individuals resisting the challenge. Violence in the end led China’s Sinohydro, the world’s largest dam builder, in addition to the Guatemalan firm COPRECA to tug out of the challenge.

Though Monday’s sentencing was celebrated, many Hondurans imagine complicity within the killing goes larger.

COPINH arrange camp in entrance of the Supreme Court docket early on Monday across the sentencing, the place they erected an Indigenous altar, after which marched to the Central American Financial institution for Financial Integration, which financed the DESA challenge.

“We at all times knew that this case would drag out for a extremely very long time,” mentioned Karen Spring, a Canadian human rights employee who has lived in Honduras for greater than a decade and knew Caceres effectively.

“Folks ought to know that David Castillo was simply an worker who adopted orders and was a part of a construction [that included] very rich components of the Atala Zablah household. There’s a lot extra to do on this case that on no account stops with David Castillo’s sentencing.”

The Atala Zablah household was a key shareholder within the DESA challenge and is likely one of the strongest households in Honduras, with quite a few investments in finance, development, and sports activities. The household has lengthy denied any involvement in Casceres’s killing.

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