Honduras: David Castillos Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Murder of Berta Cáceres

By Marcia Perdomo and the editorial staff on June 20, 2022

image: Criterio

After four postponed hearings, sixteen minutes were enough to read the sentence against Roberto David Castillo Mejía, who must serve a total of 22 years and six months in prison for the murder of indigenous environmentalist Berta Isabel Cáceres.

Castillo’s defense lawyers attended the hearing virtually. While members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and other organizations mobilized from different parts of the country to the Supreme Court of Justice in the Honduran capital.

The demonstrators reaffirmed that, despite the reading of the sentence, the State of Honduras continues to be indebted to justice since David Castillo is only one link in the chain of command that ordered the assassination of the COPINH leader.

The reading of the sentence took place a few days after the one year anniversary of the conviction of David Castillo, former manager of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), and after repeated postponements by the Court.

In the reading of the proven facts, they highlighted the payment by DESA to informants to keep them up to date on the activities of COPINH and the movements of the indigenous environmental leader, as well as the exchange of messages between the network of perpetrators of the crime and DESA’s senior management.

After this, the presiding judge read the sentence in which she sentenced Roberto David Castillo Mejía to 22 years and 6 months in prison.

The sentence must be served in the penitentiary center determined by the enforcement judge. At the same time, the time Castillo remained in prison for this cause and the absolute disqualification for the duration of the sentences must be computed.

Likewise, Castillo was declared civilly liable, a point that will be subject to cessation in the execution phase of the sentence, declared the presiding judge, and his citizenship was suspended by constitutional provision. Nor is there any sentence for personal procedural costs or expenses incurred in the trial.

In the fourth paragraph of the sentence it was specified that “the confiscation of the evidence placed in view of the oral and public trial is not decreed, because of the fact that the prosecuting entity continues the investigations in relation to the murder of Mrs. Berta Isabel Cáceres”, read the judge.

Both the defense and the accusing parties will have a legal term of up to twenty days to file a cessation appeal.

After learning of the sentence, the Global Justice Association pointed out that the intellectual authors of the murder of the indigenous leader continue without being held accountable and that Copinh demands their capture.

The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) pointed out that the Atala Zablah family, who COPINH claims to be the intellectual authors of Berta Cáceres’ murder, have yet to be held accountable.

The Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders emphasized that after the sentence against Castillo, they remain firm in their demand for justice for Berta Cáceres and jail for the chain of intellectual authors who have not been tried.

Víctor Fernández, lawyer for the law firm Estudios Para la Dignidad and plaintiff in the Berta Cáceres case, remarked about Castillo’s sentence that “more than the number of years, it is the precedent. They are not businessmen, they are criminals”.

Environmentalist Berta Isabel Cáceres was murdered on March 2, 2016 in her home, in the town of La Esperanza, Intibucá department, in western Honduras, for opposing the construction of a dam on the Gualcarque River that is vital for the subsistence of the indigenous Lenca people.

David Castillo and five other people are currently facing a judicial process known as “Fraude Sobre el Gualcarque” and involves the illegal concessioning of the Gualcarque river for the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam. Jacobo Atala Zablah, banker and president of the company Las Jacarandas, owner of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, was called to testify in this case.

This conviction marks a step in the right direction in bringing about full justice for Berta Carceres, her family and the Lenca people.

Source: Criterio, translation Resumen Latinoamericano –  English