Berta Caceres was accused of illegal possession of a firearm. After an eight hour trial, testimonies by military and police officers, who had conducted a search of her vehicle, were ultimately considered insufficient evidence. Berta, who had been closely monitored and forbidden from leaving the country, has been cleared of all charges and has had her rights to free travel restored.
It became evident that members of the army contradicted themselves. The police had done no investigation and had merely parroted the army’s version of events.
“The military officers were the ones who planted the weapon so that they could arrest us, they always look for a way to mess with our friends”, said Tomas Gomez, who was arrested at the same time as Berta, but quickly released. “If Berta hadn’t been released, there would have been huge mobilizations in several municipalities”, he added.
Berta is the latest target of the Honduran government’s attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize against government and business interests to defend their lands.
Delegates from more than 40 organizations across Honduras arrived in the city of Santa Barbara, where the trial took place, to show their solidarity with the indigenous rights campaigner.
“What bothers the regime the most is that communities are mobilizing, and are far from being afraid, because they are aware of the value of the natural resources of their territories”, said Tomas.
The humanitarian situation in Honduras worsens by the day and many organizations believe that most communities are threatened, militarized and under a permanent state of siege. This trend is expected to worsen with the coming presidential elections in November.