Monday, October 19, 2015

Another Chance for Justice - Chabelo's trial reconvenes

Solidarity Action continues
the week of October 19th.

Spread the word through your social networks. Use the hashtags #justiceforchabelo #justiciaparachabelo

Chabelo's Trial Reconvenes
(for background info please visit: or )

October 19, 2015
Greg McCain

There was a greater anticipation for this hearing than the previous ones because, before the trial was suspended 2 weeks ago, the judges had strongly requested that the Prosecutor impress upon his witnesses that they need to show up. Indeed, that was the whole reason for the 2 week suspension; key prosecution witnesses were not appearing. The 2 weeks was to give them time to schedule accordingly.

The main witness, known as Protected Witness 2 (PW2), was the only survivor of the incident in which 11 people lost their lives in a fire that burned the house belonging to the Osortos to the ground.  PW2 was pulled from the house, ironically enough, by one of Chabelo's brothers.

Through out the initial investigation PW2 never identified Chabelo as one of those involved. It was only after the prosecution and Henry Osorto, a Sub-Commissioner of the National Police and whose family was involved in the conflict that resulted in the fire, decided to manufacture the case around a photo of Chabelo.

PW2's testimony changed in the first trial from what he had been saying in the investigation. He was now implicating Chabelo and one other person, Carlos Maradiaga, in the murder of Manrique Osorto. His testimony changed again in the 2nd trial due to Maradiaga having been found innocent in the 1st trial. Chabelo was being solely accused by PW2. It was due in part to these irregularities that the Supreme Court annulled, twice, the convictions of Chabelo.

Another important witness is Henry Osorto himself. Although he was not at the house during the incident, he claims that he was on the phone with his nephew, Manrique, during the events that led to Manrique's death. Osorto's testimony changed as well between the 1st and 2nd trials.

These 2 prosecution witnesses, amongst others, are refusing to come to the hearings in Trujillo. The Prosecutor stated that he spoke with Osorto on the phone and Osorto says that it is too dangerous for him and the other witnesses to go to Trujillo.

It is important to note that Osorto was recently elevated from a Sub-Commisioner to a Commisioner of the National Police. He has sufficient resources at his disposal to ensure his and the other witnesses' safety.

In today's hearing, the Prosecutor solicited the court to have the trial moved to La Ceiba or Tegucigalpa where Osorto feels safer (?). He also solicited that 3 prosecution witnesses be removed from having to testify. The judges asked the Defense if they agreed with the elimination of these testimonies. The Defense accepted this and the judges let it stand.

On the question of moving the trial which would require another suspension, the judges asked for the Defense's response. Atty Omar Menjivar stated that by law trials could not be suspended for more than 15 days. This trial has already had a 10 day suspension and the chances of getting it added to the docket in La Ceiba or Tegus in less than 5 days would be almost impossible. Omar also stipulated that the law states that "victims" have the right to testify, but there is no legal obligation that they do so. In other words, if they don't show up, the court is under no obligation to compel them to nor make it more convenient for them to. They have the power to order a witness to appear, but they are under no obligation to.

The judges deliberated at the bench for a short period than stated that today's hearing would be adjourned so that they could consider thoroughly the Prosecution's solicitation and they would deliver their decision.

There was one witness for the prosecution today, a medical examiner from the Public Ministry. His testimony consisted of his having examined PW2 and confirming that he had received wounds from a high caliber arm. He had no evidence that connected Chabelo to the incident.

It is clear that Osorto is once again manipulating the court proceedings. There is much speculation as to his true motive beyond his claims of safety. Some speculate that it is a psychological game to keep Chabelo and the Guadalupe Carney community off balance and fearful that this nightmare will never end. Others state that Osorto is buying time to solidify his plan to kidnap and assassinate Chabelo to keep the trial from having the possible outcome of Chabelo's innocence.

Chabelo accompanied by
Greg McCain October 5, 2015
Whatever the true motives, it is clear that Osorto has the power to manipulate the justice system as he has done for the past 7 years with regard to Chabelo's case. Just as Chabelo's incrimination has become a symbol for the criminalization of  campesinos and social movements across Honduras, his court hearings are emblematic of how the justice system works only for those with power. It has only been through the collective power of the national and international human rights communities that Chabelo and his defense team have pushed through the corruption and kept his case alive to fight another day.

Help keep the pressure up. Spread the word through your social networks. Use the hashtags #justiceforchabelo #justiciaparachabelo

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