Sunday 04 October 2009
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Rights Groups Denounce Murder of Anti-Coup Protester in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA – A teacher who was actively involved in the resistance to the coup in Honduras was killed in this capital, human rights groups said.

“The murder of teacher Mario Fidel Contreras in Tegucigalpa has been confirmed,” said Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, or Cofadeh, a human rights group founded when death squads stalked the Central American country in the 1980s.

She added that, according to the information she has received, the murder occurred 100 meters (yards) from Contreras’ home on the eastern outskirts of the capital, although she said she could not confirm if the killing was related to his involvement in the protest movement.

Contreras, 50, died of two gunshots to the face fired by two men who passed by him on a motorcycle, according to Cofadeh’s preliminary report.

That organization said earlier this week that 14 politically motivated killings have occurred since President Mel Zelaya was ousted in a June 28 coup.

Separately, the Center for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Torture and their Families, or CPTRT, also denounced the murder of Contreras.

In a statement, the CPTRT, a private organization, said Contreras was killed “while preparing to run some personal errands, at a spot one block from his home in the San Angel district.”

“According to testimony provided by family members to CPTRT, it is presumed that the killing was carried out by hit men, since no personal belongings were taken from the victim,” suggesting he was not killed as part of a robbery, the statement read.

Oliva and the CPTRT both said that Contreras was a member of the National Resistance Front against the Coup that is demanding the reinstatement of Zelaya, who made a surprise return to the country on Sept. 21 and is currently holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Contreras also was affiliated with the Copemh teachers’ union and worked as a high-school teacher and a professor at the National Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa.

All of the people killed in politically motivated violence have been slain in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, according to Cofadeh, which earlier this week accused police and soldiers of acts of torture.

Some people arrested for their opposition to the coup have been burned by their jailers with cigarettes, while others have been sodomized with police batons, Oliva told Efe Wednesday.

Oliva said some of the torturers were from the army’s 3-16 Intelligence Battalion, blamed for 184 deaths during the early 1980s.

A veteran of that unit, former Capt. Billy Joya, is security adviser to Roberto Micheletti, head of the regime that took power after Zelaya’s ouster.

Oliva joined members of two anti-coup resistance groups outside the Honduran Supreme Court on Wednesday to protest the judiciary’s unwillingness to investigate allegations against the security forces.

Since the putsch, the organizations said in a statement, the high court has failed to respond to 52 motions filed in opposition to actions of the coup regime, an attitude that “contrasts with the celerity with which the judiciary acts when the charges are against members of the resistance.”

Claudia Hermannsdorfer, an attorney with the Women’s Rights Center in Tegucigalpa, said the International Criminal Court has been informed of the human rights violation committed by the coup regime.

“We are speaking even of murders,” she said. “The people responsible for the coup d’état – the armed forces and Roberto Micheletti – will have to face the International Criminal Court, which already has the cases absolutely documented and will act at any moment.”

Micheletti contends Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, insisting that the soldiers who dragged him from the presidential palace were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.

While the coup leaders accuse Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, any potential constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken place until well after the incumbent stepped down.

The Organization of American States, the United States and the European Union have been pressing Micheletti to accept the San Jose Accord, a proposal put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

The plan calls for Zelaya to return and lead a national unity government for the few months left in his term, and for a political amnesty that would protect both the coup plotters and the ousted head of state, who stands accused of various offenses by the de facto regime.

Micheletti has thus far flatly rejected the reinstatement of the elected head of state, although he has shown some signs in recent days of backing down.

Under pressure from the international community and members of the Honduran elite that have backed him since the coup, Micheletti said that he will end the state of siege his regime had imposed after Zelaya slipped back into the country

The decree curbing civil liberties and banning protests was to have lasted 45 days, but Micheletti said earlier this week that it will end sooner.

He also has extended a deadline for Brazil to decide on Zelaya’s status, although the Brazilian government has said the ousted head of state can stay at the embassy as long as he wants and that it does not accept ultimatums from coup-mongers.

On Friday, Micheletti said he met earlier in the week at a military base with Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, whom the de facto regime had previously criticized for being biased in favor of Zelaya.

Micheletti said the two talked about “absolutely everything,” although he told a reporter the agenda did not include the possibility of Zelaya returning to power.

An OAS delegation arrived in Honduras Friday to pave the way for the arrival next week of foreign ministers from across the region.

Insulza’s adviser, John Biehl, told reporters that “approximately 10 foreign ministers” will be arriving in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday and that “I think we’re at a phase in which things are going to begin to improve in every sense.”

Time is running out before presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29, with both the European Union and Washington saying they will not recognize the winner of that balloting unless Zelaya is restored to office beforehand.




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