Article by PBI-Canada
Update: On April 7, the Associated Press reported: “The trial was suspended Wednesday as the defense team attempted to change the judge. The pause came just one day after the trial of Roberto David Castillo Mejía opened. The trial cannot continue until the Court of Appeals resolves the matter. It has three days to do so. The trial is scheduled to continue until April 30, after which a date will be set for a verdict.”
On April 6, PBI-Honduras posted: “Today PBI is accompanying COPINH in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Tegucigalpa, at the beginning of the Oral and Public Trial against David Castillo for the crime of the murder of defender Berta Cáceres.”
It adds: “The trial will begin today more than 5 years after the murder of Berta and 3 years after the arrest of David Castillo, former DESA manager. From COPINH they assure ‘that it is a key trial to demonstrate responsibility for the crime and the participation of the Atala family in the attacks on Berta and COPINH.’”
The Intercept has explained: “All of the highest-ranking executives [of DESA} were members of the powerful Honduran Atala Zablah family, which has ties to the government and the international financial industry. [While Castillo was arrested] no one from DESA’s board of directors — and no one from the Atala Zablah family — has been charged with a crime or compelled to testify.”
Later in the day on April 6, PBI-Honduras posted with concern: “The Sentencing Court has announced that the physical presence of national and international observers and observers is not allowed in the room.”
At the time of Berta’s murder on March 2, 2016, Castillo was the CEO of DESA, the company seeking to build the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River on Indigenous Lenca territory in Honduras.
The Intercept also notes that DESA executives had become angry when Cáceres’ protests disrupted their investment in the hydroelectric dam.
Castillo is alleged to have coordinated with and provided funds to, the men who were the material authors of the murder of Berta.
COPINH general coordinator Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres says: “After five years of being in this battle comes a defining moment in the process of seeking truth and justice.”
She adds: “In the political context of impunity in our country, and persecution of territorial leadership, this process will be a challenge where we know that from the background of the justice system, we need wisdom and the accompaniment of human rights organizations and people who have been part of this struggle.”
PBI-Honduras has accompanied COPINH since May 2016.