Friday, January 31, 2014

Report from Honduras - January 31 - Chabelo's Trial Day 4

Go here for background information on Chabelo’s case

The court session today continued to reflect an atmosphere of conflict with the judges clearly violating the principal of impartiality, restricting the ability of the defense lawyers to defend Chabelo. 

Three witnesses for Chabelo appeared in court today, all three are live in Guadalupe Carney.
Despite constant interruptions from the lead judge (" speak louder, speak slower, speak into the microphone, look at me when you answer not at them, etc. "), all three were able to explain that Chabelo was at the soccer field at 4pm for a soccer game and that he only left the field after the wife of his friend Arnulfo Guevara came running to the field to say that she was told that her husband had been killed near Henry Osorto's house and that she needed Chabelo's help to go get Arnulfo's body. The soccer field is some distance from the Osorto house.  

Henry Osorto- photo El Diario Olancho
One witness who is also on the soccer team stated that he and others from the team went to the scene also and they all got there  after 4pm since they left the soccer field a few minutes after 4. This witness, a young campesino wearing a shirt that said "Fearless" in English, was indeed fearless. When the prosecutor asked him if he knew why Chabelo had been arrested, he answered, "yes, because of prejudices" and when the prosecutor asked him what he was talking about, whose prejudices, he answered, "Henry Osorto, because Chabelo never killed anyone, he wasn't there".  Osorto is a powerful figure in the north, a graduate of the School of the Americas, a landowner and a police official for many years-  now the head of the Police for the Province of Olancho. 

The judge also interrupted the defense lawyer when she was questioning her witnesses. She also noted for the record that the judge was interrupting the defense witnesses, something he had not done with the prosecution witnesses.  

The defense team has also complained that the judges should have taken action in the face of prosecution witnesses changing their testimony from their original statements and testimony - for making false statements to the court. Instead the Tribunal has so far denied the defense the right to contest the contradictory statements or to even contrast the different versions in court so far.  

One testimony was changed so that it actually supports the timeline as Chabelo (and defense witnesses) have testified of Chabelo arriving late in the day not during the main confrontation; another testimony was changed to accuse Chabelo of shooting and then attacking with a machete the witness's uncle when previously he said it was someone else and he now says that Chabelo was organizing the attack and agitating the other campesinos. (This is clearly contradictory to all the other testimony as well as to this witness' previous testimony.   

The Coordinadora of Popular Organization of the Aguan (COPA) brought a bus load of supporters to maintain the vigil in support of Chableo. The Permanent Observatory for Human Rights in the Aguan and several international observers also maintained their presence. 

The trial reconvenes Monday morning. 
January 30- Chabelo, his mother, his lawyer, representatives of ERIC SJ, Task Force on the Americas and La Voz de los de Abajo

Report from Honduras - January 30th - Chabelos Trial - Day 3

text and photos V Cervantes

Just a very short update from todays court session - 

Pobladores from Progreso, Yoro, and members of MUCA from the Aguan along with ERIC SJ, maintained today’s vigil in support of Chabelo outside the courthouse in La Ceiba. There were also accompaniers from PROAH (Honduras Accompaniment Project) and the Permanent Observatory for Human Rights in the Aguan. 

The prosecution and judges seemed determined not to recognize the fact that the key witness against Chabelo contradicted his original testimony and ended up confirming Chabelo’s own testimony about his arrival in his community after the confrontation with landowner Henry Osorto’s guards. In other words that the original testimony was false.

 Today the prosecution filled up much of schedule with forensic and ballistic expert testimony along with testimony from the forensic physicians. The experts verified the affidavits they had produced for the original trial that established that a large number of weapons were involved in the confrontation, that there was a fire and that a number of people died violently. However, there was no evidence that in anyway related to Chabelo or the charges against him. The prosecutors continued to present information about deaths that Chabelo is not charged with over the objections of the defense. The judges rejected a number of objections by the defense and even accused the defense of being disrespectful to the court for raising the objections.
 After the session was over, about 10 family member and supporters of Chabelo gathered at the entrance to the court parking lot to talk to Chabelo as he was leaving to go back to the prison for the night. He travels wearing a bullet proof vest in a small pick-up vehicle full of heavily armed National Police. They stopped so that we could shake his hand or hug him and talk for just a moment.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Report from Honduras - January 29th Chabelo’s Trial Day 2: The Truth Starts Leaking Out

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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Report from Honduras January 27th: Chabelo Morales - A New Trial Begins.

Report from Honduras January 27th
Text and Photos V. Cervantes

Go here for background information on Chabelo’s case

Monday, January 27th was the first day of the new trial for campesino political prisoner Jose Isabel Morales.  More than 100 people from  from the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) and Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) maintained a vigil in front of the court house; Radio Progreso and ERIC SJ were also present. All the campesino organizations in the Aguan have plans to take part in the vigils everyday of the trial. Indigenous organizations, OFRANEH and COPINH are also participating in the support for Chabelo. 

A small number of family members, representatives of the MCA and OFRANEH and international observers were allowed in the court the first day. The defense filed a motion to recluse two of the three judges on the presiding panel because they were the same judges from the Tribunal in Trujillo who violated procedures in hearing and refusing to act on the Supreme Court ruling that Chabelo could be freed pending a new trial. The judges then decided to suspend the trial until a higher court rules on the defense motion (3-4 days).
Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH

At the opening of the trial the prosecutor laid out the case against Chabelo; what was obvious, (and highlighted by the Chabelo’s lawyers in their statement), was that they could make no concrete, particular accusations against Chabelo as an individual. They could only talk about “they coldly attacked” “they set fire”, because there is no evidence  against Chabelo himself. I also noticed that every time the prosecutor said the word, “campesino” or “campesinos” he said it with distaste. He also brought up accusations about violence and land recuperations  and other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the charges against Chabelo in order to paint a picture of a “violent campesino”. 

After the proceedings were suspended both buses from the MCA Guadalupe Carney community went to the prison to visit Chabelo. It was incredibly moving to see Chabelo surrounded by his community and family and their support. Community members and Chabelo also spent time talking about the problems of the campesino movement, the need for more unity around principles and strategies in the face of what they expect to be even more attacks on the campesinos. 

When we got back to Guadalupe Carney, we started to hear reports form people who watched the inauguration on television who told us that even on television it was really clear that hardly anyone was at the official ceremony in the national stadium but that the streets were full of resistance and protests. The FNRP reported 5 thousand people protested during the inauguration ceremony (see the FNRP photo below) 
foto from Resistencia FNRP

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Report from Honduras - January 26, 2014

A representative of La Voz de los de Abajo is in Honduras to accompany the campesino movement during the new trial of political prisoner, Jose Isabel “Chabelo” Morales. The trial begins on Monday, January 27th and will be accompanied by campesino organizations from all over the country. 

Sunday - January 26, 2014 - by V. Cervantes

Arriving in San Pedro Sula in the late evening the Saturday before the inauguration, the airport is quiet but with more national police presence than I have seen on recent trips. At least in discussions with people here in the Sula Valley there is considerable fear and uncertainty as they face the incoming “President” and his program for militarization and repression. In Tegucigalpa  Saturday, Honduran Women’s Day, the police blocked of streets to cut off a woman’s march organized by the human rights group, Visitación Padilla.
January 25th Woman's Day - Foto from Dina Meza

On January 27th Juan Orlando Hernandez takes power as "President of Honduras" after the highly contested and widely condemned as fraudulent elections of November 2013. But the truth is that Juan “Robando” as he often called has been powerful in Honduras, setting legislative agendas and getting fascist laws passed, for the past four years - as the head of the National Congress since January 2010. Since the November elections, the “lame-duck” congress controlled by Hernandez and the National Party has rushed to push more of the neoliberal, anti-popular and anti-democratic agenda through even before his inauguration on the 27th.  According to the trade union organization, The Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH) in a press release on January 25th calling for protests on January 27th, in just three weeks after the elections, “the pro-coup Honduran Congress illegally approved 119 new laws and gave 87 new contracts to private companies.” This is more legislation than it passed in all of 2013. (see press release in english here) 

These laws include a steep increase in sales tax that will raise the cost of many basic foods and items.  The Congress has also rushed to make appointments to important government positions that were not due to be filled for 6 months. 

Why the rush?  The November elections broke the back of the traditional two-party stranglehold on Honduran politics. LIBRE (Partido de Libertad y Refundacion), the political party born out of the resistance to the 2009 coup d’etat fought a hard, broadly based campaign that without the fraud would have put their candidate, Xiomara Castro Zelaya into the Presidency. Despite the fraud and violence against LIBRE candidates, 37 LIBRE candidates were elected to the National congress. Another 15 candidates from a new center, or perhaps center-right,  Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) were also elected to Congress. The PAC has joined LIBRE in denouncing the electoral fraud and the actions of the Hernandez congress this past month. This means that for the first time the far right National Party and the Liberal Party will be facing as many as 50 or more opposition votes on at least some proposals.  Even though it remains to be seen how strongly the opposition block will unite and how much  the LIBRE Party will be able to push on the most important social issues, it is still the first time the National and Liberal Party’s two-headed monster is facing a numerous, organized congressional opposition. 
Protest at Congress - January 23rd
foto from the FNRP
Hernandez, strongly backed by the U.S. government and its embassy in Honduras, has gone on the offensive in the press against LIBRE, even asserting that LIBRE members are tied to organized crime, presumably to justify the use of military, police and intelligence services against them. In a show of what kind of tactics can be expected in the new Congress, the executive committee of the Congress was elected in a special session of the incoming Congress, but the National and Liberal Party congressmen running the podium refused to allow any of the opposition elected officials to speak, or to introduce their own candidates for the committee, despite a vigorous protest by LIBRE and PAC members.  In protest LIBRE has announced that its elected officials will not participate in the inauguration on the 27th and there was a large protest at the Congress building on January 23 by LIBRE and FNRP activists. Major protests are planned for inauguration day tomorrow amidst reports of militarization in Tegucigalpa and the region near the capital.  The FNRP held a press conference today in Tegucigalpa as part of the preparation for the protests. The FNRP had its first general assembly since the electoral campaigns began last week on January 18th and decided to build the FNRP as an expression of the social movements.

At the same time the militarization of the police, immigration, and law enforcement in general continues reinforcing the analysis of many activists that the country is facing even harder times and tougher challenges than it has in the past four years since the coup.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Justice Denied Once Again for Jose Isabel Morales

Trujillo Court Refuses to Release Jose Isabel Morales Pending His New Trial

6:07pm - January 6, 2014
Radio Progreso has just reported that the court in Trujillo, Colon (Tribunal de Sentencia) has denied liberty to "Chabelo" Morales pending his new trial. The radio station reporter was with Chabelo's distraught family and other members of the region's campesino organizations and social justice movement outside the court where they had been waiting all day for a decision from the court in the face of the Suprement Court ruling that his original trial can't stand and he must be given a new trial. The Supreme Court also ruled that he should be free pending retrial but the power to make that decision was then given back to the regional court where the most powerful landowners in Honduras have declared war on the campesinos. Radio Progreso reported that Chabelo was being transported to La Ceiba to await his new trial in the prison there.

Chabelo is a member of the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) and of the Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC). The CNTC currently has more than 3000 members who are either charged, detained or imprisoned on charges related to the agrarian conflict in a country in which most of the population is rural, living in extreme poverty, and without the land or resources to survive while a handful of the biggest landowners and agribusiness companies control most of the land, the courts, and the power.
For more information see the blog entries below.
Related Posts with Thumbnails