TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – A Honduran court on Thursday found seven men guilty in connection with the murder of Berta Caceres, a Honduran indigenous environmental activist shot dead for opposing the construction of a dam.
The killers could receive up to 30 years in prison according to the verdict delivered after a six-week trial in the country’s capital Tegucigalpa.
The murder of widely respected Caceres – who was shot at her home in La Esperanza, northwest of the capital, in March 2016 – was perhaps the most high-profile activist killing in a country analysts warn is gravely backsliding on human rights.
It brought international attention to the threats and intimidation faced by environmentalists and rights activists in the Central American nation.
Prior to her murder Caceres – who led the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras organisation – had received numerous death threats because she was mobilising Lenca Indians against the construction of a hydroelectric power station on the territory of the ethnic group, to which she belonged.
The three judges of the Tegucigalpa court convicted Sergio Rodriguez – a top official at the electric group Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA), which was building the plant – after unanimously ruling they had “solid evidence” that he had orchestrated the killing with Douglas Bustillo, DESA’s former chief of security, and soldier Mariano Diaz.
Four hired assassins had been recruited to kill Caceres, the court said, adding that two men broke into her house and shot her, an assassination with an approximately USD4,000 price tag. DESA President David Castillo is awaiting trial in the case.
Caceres in 2016 was posthumously named one of the UN Environment Programmeme’s “Champions of the Earth,” which honours figures who fight for sustainable development.