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Collusion between Rolando Argueta & Lenir Perez keeps Guapinol defenders in illegal detention

- for immediate release

Olanchito, Honduras | October 28, 2021

In a ruling without any legal basis, the Trujillo Court has ordered the arbitrary detention of eight Honduran water defenders. The ruling, which comes a day late after a pre-trial detention review hearing, shows once again not only the lack of judicial independence but also the deep complicity between the highest levels of the Honduran judiciary and economic interests linked to the ruling elite and the executive branch.

Without any legal basis, the Court - composed of Presiding Judge Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Judge Ricardo Geovanny Rodríguez Barahona, Judge Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar, Attorney María Jiménez, Secretary - resolved to maintain the preventive detention while the defendants await their trial, which is scheduled to begin on December 1, 2021, just a few days after the country's general elections. According to local news sources, the judges in Trujillo waited to issue the ruling on the preventive detention until they received a phone call from the president of the Supreme Court, Rolando Argueta. After today's notification, we are absolutely convinced that there are no conditions for this trial to develop independently or in compliance with due process guarantees.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that the detention is arbitrary and has urged the Honduran State to immediately release the defenders, but Honduras has failed to comply, in defiance of its international obligations despite being named a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The defenders have been held in illegal detention for 795 days.

Despite widespread opposition from affected communities, Lenir Perez and Ana Facussé, through their iron oxide mining projects and processing plant, have allied with the Tocoa Prosecutor's Office to create false crimes against defenders demonstrating against open-pit mining in the Carlos Escaleras National Park and Protected Area. In addition, time and again, the judiciary has disregarded national laws and international standards in upholding arbitrary detention.

Just a few days ago, Rolando Argueta, the highest representative of the Honduran Judiciary, was seen as guest of honor with Juan Orlando and Ana Carias at the inauguration of the Palmerola International Airport - a project led by Lenir Perez who has no experience in airport construction or management, and is millions of dollars over budget, plus its opening has been delayed several times.

Next week the World Climate Summit (COP26) will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. Honduras is expected to participate in the summit requesting Green Climate Funds to address the climate crisis. To take effective action against climate change, Honduras must start by protecting environmental defenders and their essential work to protect natural resources and the commons threatened by extractivism, not imprisoning them.

We demand the immediate release of the defenders, their dignified reparations for the damages caused against them and an immediate investigation of those responsible for their arbitrary detention. In view of the upcoming trial of the defenders in just a few weeks, we reiterate that there is absolutely no evidence to convict the defenders, they are innocent and we demand their freedom!

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