Friday, October 2, 2015

Chance for Justice Day 5

Vicki Cervantes of La Voz de los de Abajo and HSN is accompanying Chabelo Morales' new trial for two weeks along with Karen Spring of the HSN and other international observers. 

Friday, October 2, 2015
V. Cervantes

Thursday evening the electric power went out in Guadalupe Carney and with no television, radio or lights for distraction, some folks went to bed very early, while some of us stayed up burning through candles, telling stories about the history of the community, and sharing rumors and gossip about the powerful military figures and oligarchs active in the Aguan. One of the young campesinos talked about how after taking over the land that had been a US military facility, the campesinos found graves, ammunition shells, and more on the lands. I remembered that not long after the land recuperation the La Voz de los de Abajo was given a copy of military documents found by the MCA campesinos at Guadalupe that included a list of Honduran, Nicaraguan and Salvadoran prisoners who had been held in the clandestine detention center run by the US and Honduran military at the base. The young campesino told us the story that circulated in Guadalupe in those early days about a campesino ghost with high rubber boots full of water who could be heard walking around near the village. For sure there are many ghosts, victims of the military, oligarchs, and big land lords past and present, who are still walking the valley, looking for justice.

Early in the morning Friday it started pouring rain and everyone was worried about how the rain might keep supporters away from the courthouse. Amazingly, the sky cleared and we piled into the back of a pick-up truck ourselves for the short ride from Guadalupe Carney to the court in Trujillo. When we got there Chabelo and the Morales family were happy to see that a sizable group of campesinos and campesinas from Guadalupe Carney and supporters from the San Alonzo Foundation and the Human Rights Observatory of the Aguan were there waiting for Chabelo to arrive. The defense team accompanied by members of ERIC-SJ and Radio Progreso arrived shortly and the trial began. 

Day 5 in Court:
Today two prosecution witnesses appeared but the testimony again was limited to forensic details regarding ballistics analysis and once again there was no evidence was presented linked to the accusations against Chabelo. After about an hour the testimony was complete and the judges announced that the trial would adjourn for the day and not convene again until October 19 because there were still problems in locating important prosecution witnesses and October 7,8, 9 are holidays and the court decided not to work those days. The defense lawyers objected to the fact that the prosecution witnesses,especially the key witness, Henry Osorto, were not complying with orders to appear in court and asked for the court to issue edicts requiring their presence and if they don’t show up to go ahead and let the defense present its case. They also proposed that if Henry Osorto fails to show up again he lose his status as victim (which implies a certain leniency towards his no-shows). After much conferring among themselves the judges agreed to set a schedule so that defense witnesses could know when they will be called and to issue edicts for all scheduled witnesses to appear. Under Honduran law ignoring the orders to appear can result in charges of “disobedience” to the court similar to “contempt of court” charges. 

After the court adjourned, the defense team, international and Honduran supporters and one of Chabelo’s brothers, Merlin Morales headed to Tocoa, the main city in the Aguan Valley, about an hour away from Trujillo, for a press conference that was facilitated by a lawyer from ERIC-SJ, Brenda Mejia who has been observing the trial since it began. 

At the press conference defense lawyers, Omar Menjiva and Sara Aquilar explained what was going on in the court and the significance of the delays. Sara spoke eloquently about the symbolic importance of Chabelo’s case for the campesino movement and emphasized the urgent need for international observers and local supporters to continue to accompany Chabelo, his family and the community despite the obstruction and delays.

The Guatemalan jurist accompanying the trial, Dr. Henry Monroy, also spoke and noted strongly his view that the case of Chabelo is an example of the criminalization of social protest, in this case the just struggle for land -- the agrarian movement. He called for a regional solidarity presence from Central America and denounced the fact that intimidations against the family and Chabelo continue, including strange men appearing in the community near family homes and following vehicles.

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