A well earned celebration!
September 13, 2021
At approximately 7 am, people started gathering outside the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa support of Edwin and Raul.
· At approximately 9:30 am, the court notified people interested in observing the trial that they would only allow 9 observers into the trial. When starting the proceedings at ~10 am, the judges informed everyone that the trial would not be broadcasted online until possibly the afternoon.
Pre-Trial Procedural Stuff
· The trial process begins (as permitted by Honduran law) with the prosecutors and defense presenting additional evidence that was not included in the evidentiary hearing. Today, the prosecutors mostly just clarified evidence that had previously been presented. In addition,
· Edwin’s defense team presented 9 documents outlining the state persecution that Edwin has faced since 2009 and one witness, Mery Agurcia from the Honduran human rights organization, COFADEH. The court did not permit any of the evidence presented by Edwin’s defense arguing that they were irrelevant to the crime being tried and were out of context.
· Raul’s defense argued that the raid of Raul’s house after his detention was illegal and that all evidence related to the raid, should be excluded.
· The judges verified the dates that two pieces of evidence had been presented to the court. After discovering that the prosecutors had given the court key evidence just one week before the trial date instead of two months prior (as the court had ordered) the judges warned that they would report this to authorities in the Public Prosecutor’s office. In short, the prosecutors defied a court order violating Edwin and Raul’s right to defense and sufficient access to evidence.
Justifying and Formalizing the Charges: Prosecutors “Made a Mistake” Charging Raul With Two Additional Crimes
The next step of today’s trial proceedings involved the formalization of the charges against Edwin and Raul. This involves the prosecution explaining and justifying the charges in greater detail.
Charges Against Raul: The head prosecutor Juan Carlos Elvir told the court that the Prosecutor’s office would remove two charges against Raul – “aggravated arson” and “use and possession of homemade explosives”. The prosecutors said that they had “made a mistake” by charging Raul with these additional two charges and instead, will only charge him with “aggravated property damage”. According to the prosecutors, the damage that Raul caused to the Marriott hotel building amounts to 985,610.06 Lempiras [$42,000].
This “mistake” by the prosecutors, cost Raul 19 months in a maximum-security prison. At the time he was jailed, the prosecutors argued that he should be sent to pre-trial detention because of the seriousness of the charges against him]. If found guilty of the one charge, Raul now faces 2 to 3 years and 4 months in prison.
Charges Against Edwin: The prosecutor removed the “aggravated damage” charge against Edwin but formalized the charges of “aggravated arson” and “use and possession of homemade explosives.” If found guilty Edwin faces between 9 to 18 years in prison.
Unprepared Prosecutor That Stumbles Through Basic Technical Legal Arguments
For observers, including myself, the main prosecutor, Juan Carlos Elvir stumbled through the technical arguments as to why the prosecution was charging Edwin and Raul with the above listed crimes. It was also obvious that the prosecution had not reviewed the entire legal file, did not prepare the first two witnesses, and struggled to make basic legal arguments specific to the case.
The Court Began to Examine Evidence & Hear from Investigators
Two witnesses that presented two pieces of evidence:
· An analysis of videos of the 911 camera system from street cameras & videos obtained from the reception cameras inside the Marriott Hotel.
o The videos were played on a small screen that was difficult to see from across the court. They show hundreds of people participating in a protest, specifically at a moment in front of the Marriott hotel on January 12, 2018. It’s hard to identify people in the videos. The video forensic analyst Wilmer Anderson pointed out two people – one wearing a motorcycle helmet and another wearing a red shirt and beige shorts.
· An analysis of the geographical location of a cell phone using cell phone towers
o Police investigator Rosa Sanchez Gonzales clearly confused two separate phone analyses without the prosecutors even knowing it (again, likely because of their lack of knowledge of the legal file and sloppiness). She testified that one cell phone was within several kilometers of the Marriott Hotel during the time of the day when the protest was occurring. The investigator at one point said that the phone was Edwin’s but then said it was Raul’s cell phone.
For immediate release
Canada’s foreign policy under scrutiny!
SIMCOE COUNTY HONDURAS RIGHTS MONITOR ACTION on COUNTY RD 92
Sunday September 12 2021 at noon
ELMVALE – September 8 2021 — The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee is inviting supporters to protest Canada’s foreign policy in supporting governments that oppress the human rights of their people.
The action will take place on Sunday September 12 2021 at noon – at the ‘Free Edwin Espinal’ sign on south side of County Road 92 just west of the 29th Sideroad.
As the date of the federal election approaches, it is important to scrutinize the actions of our past governments – under both Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau – when it comes to standing up to corrupt dictatorships.
Specifically, the SCHRMC is targeting the situation in Honduras and the case of two men facing politically motivated charges. Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez – who were released last August after 19 months in pre-trial detention in exceptionally inhumane conditions – are going to trial on Sept 13 and 14th in Tegucigalpa.
The SCHRM committee is demanding that the Honduran government DROP THE CHARGES and calls on Canada to take a stand for human rights.
Federal, provincial and municipal political representatives have spoken at SCHRMC meetings which have been well attended by residents who continue to support efforts to assist Hondurans facing major hardship due to COVID, hurricanes and arbitrary government actions.
Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee
Contact: Janet Spring: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was called to be the United Church minister in Elmvale I had no idea that I would be drawn into two deeply profound ecological concerns having to do with the ongoing life of our beloved planet—Water and Human Rights. And believe it or not, both these concerns were presented to me from two different sources emerging directly from concerns of the people of this region—the struggle for human rights in Honduras and the struggle for the protection of our watershed and the purest water in the world in North Simcoe.
Just prior to arriving in Elmvale I had been privileged to receive the 2011 McGeachy Scholarship of the United Church of Canada. My research project was entitled “For Earth’s Sake: Playing the Story and Living the Practice of the Presence of God.” You can read about it on a website I created using tools that no longer exist. http://users.vianet.ca/jordanm/For_Earths_Sake/New_Story_Earths_Sake.html. I mention it because it will underline for you one of my greatest concerns and maybe one of my greatest insights since coming to Elmvale. You see, I am a missionary’s daughter. I grew up in India. This makes me a planetary citizen—my heart belongs to the Earth—the beauty that pervades our entire planet and which I have encountered everywhere— no matter where I find myself.
I discovered and was drawn to the Honduras leader and community organizer, Berta Caceres, long before I came to Elmvale because she was a proud indigenous woman, a member of the Lenca people and a true lover of the earth and a defender of water. Berta was also a fierce defender of human rights and particularly women’s rights. Just my kind of woman! It was during my ministry internship at Kincardine United Church that I discovered the success of her work and the international recognition it received though the Goldman Environmental Prize which she won in November of 2015. At the ceremony, in her acceptance speech, she gave voice to so much that I truly care about. So the best thing I can do here is simply give you her words. If you can access the internet the video is even better. https://youtu.be/AR1kwx8b0ms
In our world view we are beings who come from the Earth,
from the water and from corn.
The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers,
in turn protected by the spirits of young girls,
who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers
is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet.
COPINH, walking alongside people, struggling for their emancipation
validates this commitment to continue protecting our waters,
the rivers, our shared resources and nature in general,
as well as our rights as a people.
Let us wake up!!
Let us wake up, humankind!!
We’re out of time…
We must shake our conscience free
of rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy
that will only assure our own self-destruction.
The Gualcarque River has called upon us,
as have other gravely threatened rivers.
We must answer their call.
Our Mother Earth- militarized, fenced in, poisoned,
a place where basic rights are systematically violated –
our Mother Earth demands that we take action.
Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way
in a way that protects life.
This river is like blood running through our veins.
Let us come together and remain hopeful
As we defend and care for the blood of this Earth.
Tragically, Berta Caceres was murdered on March 2, 2016. When I participated in the 2018 delegation to Honduras to visit her good friend, political prisoner and falsely accused Honduran citizen, Edwin Espinal, in prison, I had the privilege and true honour to visit her family home in La Esperanza and pay my respects to her mother and her brother. I was able to visit the little house which she had been able to buy with her Goldman prize money and where she was killed by gunmen in the middle of the night. I also was able to visit her grave in the local cemetery and then finally, the compound of COPINH (National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) where she did so much of her organizing and teaching and encouraging of the people. Throughout the town of La Esperanza (which means HOPE) there are murals about Berta. Her presence was and still is everywhere. It was not hard to see how the expression “Berta did not die, she was planted” came to life. Her life and her death have only strengthened their hope. Included is a photo of me, Karen Spring, Janet Spring, and Barry Reeves in front of a mural outside of Berta’s family home in La Esperanza. It was taken in May, 2018.
As part of a more recent delegation to Honduras, an indigenous leader and water defender from our part of the world named Vicki Monague, took part. She carried with her water from the Springwater underground aquifer that had been blessed here in ceremony and then was mingled with Honduran water. This was in recognition of the common concerns and values which are held as sacred among indigenous people around the world. Just as the Lenca women in Honduras have a special relationship with the rivers, so do the Anishinaabe women from Christian Island and those across Canada have a very special relationship with the water. In our region, they fight for the water. Their fierce dedication and constant presence through ceremony and song was a strong part of what contributed to the victory achieved in the recent past through overcoming the plans for Site 41. As many of you know, we are now in the midst of a struggle to save the pristine waters of this region from the clutches of extractivism so that they can be studied and understood for the sake of future generations.
There is a dangerous force at work in our world which views the earth and all its riches as simply resources for extraction. Many of us believe that we belong to the earth and that harming it is a way of harming ourselves. That is why working for human rights and working to save the water are profoundly linked.
Berta Caceres and friend Edwin Espinal fought for the water in La Esperanza. Edwin goes to trial soon on September 13-14 as he continues to stand up for the environment, for the water, and for the human rights of the people of Honduras. Our prayers are with him.
Reverend Meg Jordan
St. John’s United Church, Elmvale, ON