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Several Guatemalan social sectors have celebrated the release of the political prisoners of Santa Eulalia and Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango department, after a year of being imprisoned for defending their communities.
Domingo Baltazar, Rigoberto Juárez, Bernardo Ermitaño López, Arturo Pablo, Mynor López, Francisco Juan and Adalberto Villatoro were acquitted from all charges.
Judge Jazmín Barrios ordered the immediate release of the community leaders since it was not possible to prove the crimes they had been charged for: instigation to crime, coercion, hindering criminal action and kidnapping.
“This historical resolution addresses the criminalization of native peoples in Guatemala”, stated the Association of Mayan Lawyers and Notaries, whose members defended the heroes of the popular resistance in that country.
Trial observers agreed on the fact that this process showed the intention by the Prosecutor´s Office to criminalize ancestral leaders of the North of Huehuetenango and revealed the ignorance by State institutions of how communities organize themselves and other international treaties and agreements signed by Guatemala that ensure their respect.
Different congresspeople also expressed their satisfaction for the release of these men and extended their solidarity with their families, friends and allied organizations.
They rejected “the criminalization of the defenders of the territory, water and life, people who struggle for the wellbeing of everyone, their common resources, the good living and against this system of death and destruction”.
“It is necessary to consider what is the economic and development model we want, it is necessary to consult with the people, to stop environmental degradation. We need social development, control over megaprojects and the fulfilment of tax obligations”, they highlighted.
Since they were detained, the seven Huehuetenango leaders were incarcerated with common criminals, despite the insistence by human rights defenders and members of different social organizations to end what they considered an injustice.
They were persecuted for participating in protests against Hidro Santa Cruz, a subsidiary of Spanish transnational company Hidralia Energía, and their project to establish a hydroelectric dam in the Cambalam river, to the detriment of their territories.
Source: Prensa Latina
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