Text and photos V. Cervantes
Today Chabelos new trial was reconvened with the same panel of judges as the first day (January 27) since the defense motion to recuse two of the three judges for bias was denied. The court house had numerous heavily armed National Police and soldiers present. Today only five people were allowed inside, including family members and observers during what turned into a marathon session that didn’t end until nearly 8 pm and was full of apparent surprises for the prosecution.
The session started on a worrisome note as the prosecutors began introducing information on a large number of murder and other serious charges for which the original trial judges had declared Chabelo innocent. Chabelo’s lawyers objected but the judges ruled in favor of the prosecution. This continued what they had started on the first trial -- an attempt to paint a picture of Chabelo as a violent criminal, without actually having evidence to do so. However just when the prosecution thought they were moving in to make their case, the truth starting leaking out.
The prosecution brought in their key “protected witnesses” who were expected to give testimony, as they did in the original trial, which was used to place Chabelo as at the scene and participating in a violent confrontation with a landowner’s guards. Chabelo and community members have always denounced the testimony as lies and misrepresentations and today that became clear to all. One of the witnesses, who had originally stated that Chabelo was on the scene beginning early in the morning and was close to the house where there was a confrontation with guards as well as being armed with an AK47, today said that he saw Chabelo with only a machete about 900 to 1000 meters away from where the guards were. Furthermore, today he said that he didn’t see Chabelo until late afternoon not early in the morning as he originally said, and by the time he saw Chabelo a fire that burnt down the house was already burning. This would mean that Chabelo could not have been firing a weapon and he could not have started the fire. The other witness was asked to review his own written statements in which he had verified the identities of persons in about 30 photos, but as he began reviewing the photos and statements he decided that he could in fact only identify 3 people. This is significant because his original statements were the basis for the police issuing 32 arrest warrants for members of the Guadalupe Carney community, including Chabelo. This should mean that those warrants which are still in place should be withdrawn for everyone he did not, in fact, identify as being at the scene.
Today it seemed that the bottom is falling out of the case against Chabelo but the campesinos say that they have too much experience with injustice to feel sure about what will happen. Meanwhile the campesino movement in the Aguan continues to show their support for Chabelo. Today a bus load of campesinos, most of them youth from the MARCA settlements, came to accompany the trial. They sat in front of the court building in the sun for 9 hours. They were joined by members of the Permanent Observatory for Human Rights in the Aguan and by the Coordinator of Popular Organization in the Aguan (COPA). Members of the Observatory were denied access to the court room by court officials who said they were told by the judge that no one from the Observatorio should be allowed in. The Observatory is a campesino based human rights group in the Aguan.