Thursday, February 6, 2014

Perjury, Prejudice and Influence = Injustice

February 5th Chabelo’s Trial 
Campesinos of the Aguan - Seminario FIDES 2012

I arrived back in Chicago yesterday; this report is based on information from notes and reports by Dunia Perez of ERICSJ and Greg McCain, a human rights observer in the Aguan as well as a phone interview with Chabelo’s family today. Today the defense and prosecution  present their closing arguments- a verdict may come as early as tomorrow -- V. Cervantes

Yesterday (February 5) the landowner who started violence in the land dispute with the campesinos of Guadalupe Carney, Police Subcommander Henry Vicente Osorto testified. According to those present in the courtroom the prosecution created major theatrical effect -- previously they complained that he was not answering the orders to appear---  while everyone (except the judges) was in the courtroom for a supposed 8:30 am start, nothing happened until 9:30 am. The judges entered at that time and the prosecution introduced Osorto as the next witness. The defense team was not notified that Osorto was going to show up. 

Most shocking was Osorto’s testimony - he blatantly contradicted his testimony and statements made for the 2010 trial. He was not present at the confrontation but has testified that he had phone conversations with family members who were there including Carlos Manrique Osorto the man that Chabelo is accused of killing. The 2010 testimony by Henry Osorto was only that Carlos Manrique said there were campesinos surrounding the house , noise, etc. without mentioning any names at all.  But in Wednesday’s testimony he claimed that he asked Carlos Manrique if he recognized anyone and was told that “Jose Isabel Morales” was the one who shot him and furthermore Henry claims now that Chabelo took the phone from Carlos Manrique while talking to Henry and told Henry “ see what we have done to your family, you think you are so big”.  The defense team moved to declare the testimony invalid but despite the clear the contradictions. The judges ruled against the defense.  

Chabelo's mother shares family photos
with La Voz delegation - 2010
There were other inconsistencies between Wednesday’s testimony and 2010. In 2010 Osorto testified that in general the campesinos were peaceful neighbors but this time he made long statements about how the campesinos are terrorists; he verbally attacked the campesino organization MUCA (who are not at Guadalupe Carney) as having terrorist cells and accused Chabelo of having brought in others from outside to carry out a massacre. This “new testimony” comes straight out off the pages of the propaganda campaigns waged against MUCA, the MCA and other campesinos since the 2009 coup by the giant land owners in the Aguan such as Miguel Facusse and the Honduran military command in the Aguan (most recently, Coronel German Alfaro). It is worth remembering at this point that the conflict between Osorto and the Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MCA) arises from illegal sales/purchases by ex-military and police official s such as Osorto and later landowners like Miguel Facusse of the land that was part of a military base run by the U.S. for training and operations for the Honduran and Salvadoran military and the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980's. The base was closed in 1985 and the land became Honduran government (public) ruled as eligible for land reform distribution to the poor and landless campesinos. 

During Wednesday's session Chabelo's defense lawyers also objected to the fact that this testimony by Henry Osorto as well as the changed testimony by the prosecution’s other witnesses and other “evidence” was a surprise to them as the prosecution had not informed them of this “new evidence” as required. 

Ceremony for campesinos murdered in the Aguan Valley
 since the coup - at least 120 to date.
As I write this, I remember a meeting with the organization “Lawyers in Resistance” in 2011 in San Pedro Sula in which a young lawyer told us that he and other lawyers formed that organization to figure out "how to practice law in a country in which there is no rule of law".

We can only hope that justice will prevail tomorrow when the verdict is expected. 

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