A coordinated plot by unnamed executives led to last year’s murder of Honduras environmentalist Berta Caceres, according to an international legal team. Eight suspects are under arrest but the masterminds remain elusive.
Five lawyers from the US, Colombia and Guatemala presented their 90-page report in the Honduran capital Tuesday, saying Caceres murder was "not an isolated incident” but the "product of a plan” by unnamed executives of DESA.
Desarrollos Energeticos SA has repeatedly denied involvement in the nighttime killing of Caceres by gunmen who entered her home just before midnight on March 2, 2016 and also wounded a Mexican activist, Gustavo Castro Soto.
The five lawyers of the International Advisory Group of Experts (GAIPE) said it had identified — but did not publicly name — "possible intellectual authors” behind the murder beyond eight individuals already charged in Honduras.
GAIPE said data and interview testimony obtained "despite the secrecy of the Public Prosecutor's Investigation” had established the "participation” of executives and employees of DESA, private security personnel, and state agents "before, during and after … the day of the assassination.”
Strategy to 'control, neutralize'
"The strategy was to control, neutralize and eliminate any opposition,” the lawyers added while also faulting Honduran police for failing to protect Caceres after repeated threats.
Records had shown multiple communications between suspected gunmen and an unnamed DESA official, according to GAIPE findings reported by Associated Press.
An international outcry ensued after the murder of Caceres who with her movement, Copinh, led indigenous Lenca peoples in opposing the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project.
Construction was subsequently suspended when investors, including a Dutch bank and a Finnish fund, froze funding.
Murder weapon recovered
A Honduras Public Minister spokesman said the murder weapon had been recovered, adding that it had been difficult to establish "who paid for the assassination.”
GAIPE described Honduras official investigation as "insufficient” and said it had been "plagued by incompetence” and attempts to "deflect blame.”
Reuters said DESA did not respond to an emailed request for comment of the report released in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.
Prize winners demand justice
During a recent visit to Honduras, Nobel peace prize winners, Yemen's Tawakkol Karman and Shirin Ebadi of Iran urged the Honduran government to bring to justice those who ordered Caceres' killing.
Honduras is the deadliest place on earth for environmentalists and indigenous land activists. Last year, 14 were killed, according to the UK-based Global Witness, and at least 120 in all since 2010.
ipj/kl (AP, Reuters)