Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Police Detentions in Honduras

by the Witness for Peace Staff in Tegucigalpa

Agustina Flores Lopez, a 54-year-old teacher and mother, was arrested in the early morning of September 22nd as she was walking near the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Of the dozens who were originally detained that morning, she is one of only two people left in prison.

Agustina descibes her arrest, “While one of them twisted my arms behind me and put handcuffs on me, another was hitting me in the face and choking me around the neck. First, they took me to the Manchen prison. The Patrol had six members of the resistance there, all beaten. Then, they took me to the Chochi Sosa stadium. At first there were 11 of us detained. Later, I saw some 30 members of the resistance, beaten and wounded. Then I was taken to the CORE VII detention center."

Dr. Juan Almendares was finally allowed to visit Agustina days after her initial arrest. Dr. Almendares found her to be “in a state of deep sadness; her face was distorted. She had bruised skin in various parts of her body - face, neck, and shoulders – caused by the beatings from the police. At times, she was dizzy and lost her balance. She does not remember if she lost consciousness at times. She was confused.” Agustina has pre-existing conditions, including problems with her immune system, leaving her susceptible to infections and diseases.

Agustina, who has received national recognition for her teaching and community work, is being charged with sedition. Judge Laura Casco concluded there was “sufficient evidence” of sedition against Agustina to proceed to trial, and ordered her to be held in jail until her trial. Judge Casco determined that Agustina, if released, might incite others to insurrection.

The only witnesses allowed to speak at the hearing were two police officers who participated in the detention and beatings of Augustina and other detained. Judge Casco found that the police officers used the “minimal amount of force necessary” to detain Agustina, even though a video presented in court showed Agustina with her hands handcuffed behind her back, being beaten in her face and other parts of her body. The judge also used, as “evidence”, that Agustina said that she was a member of the resistance and that she had been exercising her rights to peaceful protest.and human rights groups and lawyers working pro-bono are trying to get her out.

The image “http://www.redsemlac.net/images/Archivos/berta.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Agustina's sister Bertha Caceres

Noelia Nunez, a pro-bono lawyer working on Agustina’s case commented on police action in the detainment of Agustina. They “didn’t read the accused their rights, they didn’t detain them in a proper detention center, but rather a stadium. They didn’t provide us with access to the case file or police statements and wouldn’t allow anyone to visit them. Furthermore, Agustina is being charged with sedition, which is a serious and complex crime that implies pre-planned intentions that simply are not true, especially in this woman’s case. Her only crime was being in the street, participating in a peaceful protest. We are confident that she was targeted for being the sister of Berta C├íceres, an active leader in the resistance and director of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras."

Mario Enrique Molina, metal-worker and father of four, was also detained and beaten on September 22nd. He and his wife are not involved in organizing the resistance, but simply participated in the peaceful march. "They just picked people off the street that were marching peacefully, for no reason." Mario was also charged with aggravated assault and sedition, but was released yesterday after all charges were dropped. He told Witness for Peace, “What they did to Agustina was terrible – I wish it could have been me instead of her. She didn’t do anything wrong and it was horrible what they did to her.”

Mario Molina shortly after his release

Mario Molina shortly after his release from eight days of detention

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