Honduras court indicts ex-dam executive in murder of renowned environmentalist

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A former top executive of a Honduran construction firm was found guilty on Monday of being an associate The 2016 assassination of Indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres, a judge said in the court’s decision.

Roberto David Castillo, Desarrollos Energeticos, or former head of DESA overseeing the $50 million Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, was originally accused of being the mastermind behind the murders, but was found guilty of being a co-conspirator . He is to be sentenced on August 3.

Seven other men have already been convicted and sentenced for his role in the murder.

Mr Castillo has said he is innocent of the charges. Neither he nor DESA could immediately be reached for comment on the judge’s decision.

Ms Casares was shot dead in 2016 When gunmen broke into the house where she was staying in her hometown of La Esperanza in western Honduras. She was leading the fight to stop a dam being built by DESA on the land of her Lenca tribe on the Gualacarque River.

The veteran activist started environmental causes with illegal logging since the early 1990s. he won the prestigious goldman environmental award In 2015 for his efforts to organize resistance to the dam. After his assassination, the banks that financed the dam project withdrew.

Lenka activists said the project would cause major disruption to their water and food supplies and that the builders had not consulted indigenous groups in the area.

Indigenous rights groups founded by Ms Casares, Kopinah, called the court’s decision a “victory” for the people of Honduras.

“This means that the criminal power structure failed to corrupt the justice system,” Kopin wrote on Twitter.

Other suspects arrested and tried in the murder included company employees, hired killers and members of the military.

Mr Castillo was arrested in March of 2018 at an airport in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras when he was about to fly to Houston, news reports citing the prosecutor’s office said.

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

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