1st Anniversary of the Military-Oligarchic Coup in Honduras: Repression Continues, Resistance Continues

"I was asking the police for a doctor because I felt like my skin was on fire and I could barely breath but they [the police] just laughed at me. They kept putting the tazer gun to my ear asking if I wanted to feel the shock again. It sent shivers through my entire body thinking about how it would feel." - Edwin Espinal


Illegal detention & torture of Edwin Robelo Espinal

Illegal detention of Berta Caceres, co-leader of COPINH


Annie Bird, 1-202-680-3002 (annie@rightsaction.org)

Karen Spring, 011-504-9507-3835 (spring.kj@gmail.com)

WHAT TO DO: see below

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By Karen Spring, Rights Action (in Honduras), July 10, 2010

Two days after the one-year anniversary of the resistance movement in Honduras, an active member of the movement, Edwin Robelo Espinal was detained and tortured in his neighbood, Flor del Campo, in Tegucigalpa.

Since the coup on June 28th 2009, Edwin has been in the streets participating in the pro-democracy movement and various activities of the resistance movement. He was accompanied by his partner, Wendy Elizabeth Avila until September 26th of last year when she was killed by tear gas shot at protesters in front of the Brazilian Embassy by police and military forces.

For full story on Wendy's death see the Fault Lines documentary: "100 days of Resistance"

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYY4vj9ROC0

Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upMu_oR2YUU&feature=channel

Since the coup, Edwin has been subject to various forms of psychological and physical intimidation and harassment from the police and military. He has been illegally detained more than 12 times, beaten up, shot at and pulled over by police without reason or cause ... and the intimidation that has continued since then is another instance of him being targeted for his strong participation in the pro-democracy movement.

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"I was asking the police for a doctor because I felt like my skin was on fire and I could barely breath but they [the police] just laughed at me. They kept putting the tazer gun to my ear asking if I wanted to feel the shock again. It sent shivers through my entire body thinking about how it would feel." - Edwin Espinal

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On the night of Wednesday, June 30th, as Edwin was standing on the side of the road next to his car chatting with friends in his neighbourhood, a police patrol with 5 police officers pulled over and began to harass Edwin asking for his license. Having not committed any driving offence (as he was standing on the road), the officers began harassing him telling him they were going to arrest him.

The 5 officers began pushing and hitting Edwin with their batons trying to force him into the back of their pick up truck. When unable to, the head officer named Vargas by the label on his uniform, pulled out pepper spray and holding the spray roughly 10cm from his face, sprayed Edwin all over his face, hands and exposed skin.

Totally blinded, beaten up and choking on the large amount of gas that had entered his mouth, he was forced into the back of the pick up truck and driven for 20 minutes to an unknown location.

The pick up truck was parked and Edwin was left lying in the back. In the 15 minutes the truck was parked, the police continued to harass and torture him. One officer fired the tazer gun close to his ear and asked Edwin if he knew what it was. After responding, no, Edwin was shocked in the stomach. His capturers took various pictures of him and asking him questions like why he was a Zelayista [supporter of overthrown President Zelaya], for how long has he been in the resistance movement, why he's a communist, etc.

Edwin was then taken to the 4th police station in Comeyaguela, still blinded by the gas and unaware of where he was. After entering the police station and unable to breath, see or handle the extreme burning feeling of his face, neck and arms, Edwin begged the officers to get him a doctor. The police laughed at him. He was then shocked again by a tazer gun where he fell to the floor convulsing and shaking.

He was then put into a jail cell and held over night until representatives from COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) arrived at the police station at 9:00 am to get him released.

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"The first thing that they [the police] did to him [Edwin] was throw gas on him to detain him. This is a form of psychological and physical torture as it was gas that killed his wife, Wendy, months earlier." - Berta Oliva, COFADEH

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Edwin's strong participation in the resistance movement makes him a strong target of repression. "The police in my neighbourhood hate me. They know my truck and they know that I'm in the resistance movement."

Another reason Edwin believes he is targeted by the handful of police that patrol his neighbourhood is because he was the witness of the murder of Francisco Alvarado, a man killed in Edwin's neighbourhood on September 22, 2009 when various residents were on the street protesting after being evicted from the Brazilian Embassy.

"The police in my neighbourhood know that I know that they killed Francisco Alvarado that night. After he was shot, we were trying to take him to the hospital but they wouldn't let us. We were scared that if they [the police] took him that they would kill him on the way to the hospital."

The complexities of Edwin's case do not stop there. The same police that tortured him on June 30th continue to patrol his neighbourhood and he is forced to see them almost everyday close to his home.

Today, July 7, Edwin saw a few of the police officers from his neighbourhood at the grocery store. After leaving the store, one hour later and arriving at his house, 2 police officers, one of them in uniform (the same one he saw at the grocery store) and another in civilian clothes, were waiting at the entrance to the drive way that leads up to his house.

The officer in civilian clothes, Edwin recognized as Vargas, the same officer that had sprayed pepper spray in his face, detained him and participated in torturing him a week earlier. Upon seeing Edwin's car, Vargas waved and smiled at Edwin and then both officers hopped on a motorcycle and drove away.

To Edwin, the message was clear, 'We are watching you.' Both officers had known he would be arriving home shortly, had left the grocery store and had waited for him to arrive at his house.

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COFADEH has made a formal complaint regarding Edwin's case to the Public Prosecutor's Office and urges the national and international community to contact the individuals below and:

Demand that the Honduran authorities guarantee the safety of Edwin Robelo Espinal to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of intimidation, illegal arrests and torture that violate fundamental human rights of Edwin Robelo, to make public the results and bring those responsible for these acts to justice.

Ensure the safety of all people exercising their right to association and free expression.

Direct their communications to the following Honduran authorities:

Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés
Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia
Tel (504) 269-3000, 269-3069

Luis Alberto Rubí
Fiscal General de la República.
Fax (504) 221-5667
Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099
lrubi@mp.hn, suazog@mp.hn

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH
Barrio La Plazuela, Ave. Cervantes, Casa No. 1301. Apdo. Postal No. 1243, Tegucigalpa, M.D.C.
Tel/Fax (504) 220-5280 / 220-7147, cofadeh@sdnhon.org.hn, www.cofadeh.org

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COPINH is a human rights organization whose activists have received countless threats and harassment following the 2009 coup in Honduras. The following denunciation is presented within this context:

Román Castro and Bertha Cáceres, members of COPINH were illegally and arbitrarily detained on 27 June 2010. In Bertha's case, the following occurred:

Following a phone call received about the organization of the 28 June activities -- the anniversary of the oligarchic-military coup -- and Mr. Castro's detention, COPINH's General Coordinator Bertha Cáceres was on her way to the Utopía Center. This center is located near the police station on the road from La Esperanza to Siguatepeque. Upon seeing COPINH's car at the station, she stopped.

She got out and introduced herself as a member of the COPINH directorate to the police officer in charge, Inspector Velásquez. When she asked why the car and its occupants had been detained, he responded that surely they had been stealing.

She then responded that it was a very serious accusation he was making and that he could not do that without proof. The inspector responded that he could do whatever he wanted. Bertha told him that this was illegal. She then stated that she had been notified that they had taken away 400 "sovereign declarations" from her companions and demanded their return. She also stated that the Army and the corrupt and repressive Police were going to be abolished with the new Constitution.

Inspector Velásquez became violent and ordered Bertha´s detention. When she responded that there was no reason for this, he again told her that he could do whatever he wanted. At that moment, he attacked Bertha, grabbing her arm and hitting her on the back. Then he told the other police officers, about 15 others were present, that they take her away because otherwise he was going to badly beat her.

The police put her into the patrol car and brought her to the police station. Once there they did not read her rights to her nor did they present any formal accusation against her. She was, however, detained for a few hours. When Commissioner Fuentes arrived, he stated that he was sorry for the action against her and that the best thing would be to sign a legal document (acta). Since there was no reason for this, Bertha refused. They released her. Upon which, she explained that there was another detained companion and solicited his release.

Both were released.

The 400 sovereign declarations were returned. On June 29, 2010 Bertha Cáceres, as COPINH's General Coordinator, presented a denunciation to the before the Attorney General´s Office against Inspector Velásquez and Preventive Police agents for the crime of abuse of authority and illegal detention.

It is very important to mention that the Inter American Commission on Human Rights has granted protective measures to Bertha Cáceres and all the COPINH activists.

Intibucá- Honduras, 29 June 2010