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Court prepares to convict Guapinol defenders in secret

For immediate release

The Guapinol Case seems doomed to regress to an inquisition-type trial where opacity guarantees ease of arbitrary actions to convict the defenders, according to the legal defense team that today was notified that judges Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Ricardo Geovanny Rodríguez Barahona and Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar have denied the request for observation and transmission.

"Once again, the Court has demonstrated why it is not suitable to preside over this case. It is preparing everything to condemn the defenders without society knowing it. Through another arbitrary ruling, the court is not going to guarantee the right of the defenders to have presence in the courtroom through observation, and they have not managed to ensure the live transmission and guarantee transparency in a case of public interest," said lawyer Edy Tabora upon receiving the notification.

The trial of the eight defenders of Guapinol and Sector San Pedro in arbitrary detention, scheduled for next week, should be broadcast live to allow public access as a fundamental right to truth. Two days ago, the legal team requested the Court to guarantee this right and today the negative resolution arrived. For more than two years, the defenders' legal process has been marked by arbitrary actions of the Judiciary, including hearings behind closed doors and the denial of publicity through observation and transmission, despite multiple requests made by national and international actors and organizations that have closely followed the defenders' case.

Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahuan Hernández, Arnol Javier Alemán and Jeremías Martínez have been recognized globally for their defense of the environment - including the Letelier Moffit Award in the United States and notably as a finalist for the Sakharov Prize, the most distinguished human rights award given by the European Union parliament. In Honduras, his work of legitimate defense of human rights has been accredited by the Secretariat of Human Rights. The whole world is watching his trial and how the Honduran State will act, after more than three years of arbitrary rulings in the case that the Court wants to keep secret.

For the legal team, the Court's failure to comply with basic rights is yet another demonstration of its lack of impartiality towards the defenders. The legal brief that was presented on Wednesday requests that the hearings of the oral and public debate be moved to a courtroom in Tegucigalpa if necessary to allow public access to the judicial process and to guarantee the technical capacity to comply with the live transmission through the official channels of the judiciary.

The request highlights Article 308 of the Criminal Procedural Code which regulates the publicity of the oral and public trial and states that 'the trial will be public'. According to Kenia Oliva, of the legal defense team:

"Publicity constitutes a requirement of the criminal process proper of an open and transparent democratic society, in which it can be known when it is public, an object of collective interest. Publicity constitutes, not in vain, an effective guarantee against arbitrariness and abuse of power."

The legal brief further argues that the public serves as a control of the proper functioning of the judicial system. For defense attorney Tabora: "Publicity allows a certain democratization of criminal Justice, through participation, albeit certainly limited to that of a critical vigilant spectator, by the society on whose behalf it is administered."

The trial, which will begin only three days after the general elections, will be judged by a Court that has already demonstrated its bias in the case, having ruled in favor of the arbitrary detention of the defenders and expressed stigmatizing qualifiers against them and their families. A truly public trial is essential to have effective monitoring of the judicial proceedings and their outcomes and the legal team will appeal the court's decision and asks those following the case to denounce the recent ruling.

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