SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 3 August 2021, Tuesday |

Honduran court finds construction exec guilty in activist’s murder

In a court ruling on Monday, a former top executive of a Honduran construction firm was found guilty of being an accomplice in the 2016 murder of indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres.

Former Head of Desarrollos Energeticos, or DESA, which oversaw the $50 million Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, Roberto David Castillo, has stated that he is innocent of the charges.

Seven other individuals have previously been found guilty and jailed for their involvement in the murder. Initially, Castillo was accused of being the brains behind the murder, but he was found guilty of being a co-conspirator. On August 3, he will be sentenced.

Caceres was shot to death in 2016 at in her home in Honduras after leading a fight to stop a dam from being built by DESA on the lands of her Lenca tribe on the Gualcarque River.

The veteran activist had taken on environmental causes since the early 1990s, beginning with illegal logging, and won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to organize resistance to the dam.

Lenca activists said the project would cause major disruptions to their water and food supply and that the builders didn’t consult the area’s indigenous groups.

The indigenous rights groups founded by Caceres, COPINH, called the decision a “victory” for the people of Honduras.

“It means that the criminal power structures failed to corrupt the justice system,” COPINH said on Twitter.

Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for activists, with 14 land and environmental defenders killed in 2019, up from four people in 2018, according to advocacy group Global Witness.