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Honduran court convicts 7 in 2016 killing of environmental activist Cáceres

By
Sommer Brokaw
Seven people have been convicted in the death of Berta Cáceres, an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples. File Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/ONU Brasil
Seven people have been convicted in the death of Berta Cáceres, an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples. File Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/ONU Brasil

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A Honduran court convicted seven men of the 2016 murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres, while an eighth defendant was cleared of charges.

Cáceres, an award-winning human rights and environmental activist, was shot dead in her home in 2016. Authorities suspected she was killed because of her activism -- particularly her decade-long fight against plans to build the hydroelectric Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, which some consider sacred ground.

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The court ruled Thursday that executives of Desa, the company that had a concession to build the Agua Zarca dam, ordered her murder because protests had delayed the project and cost the company money.

Judges convicted two former executives, including Sergio Rodríguez, communities and environment manager and Douglas Bustillo, a former Desa security chief and U.S.-trained former army lieutenant.

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The five other men convicted included Mariano Díaz Chávez, a U.S.-trained special forces major who served with Bustillo; Henry Javier Hernández, former special forces sergeant who served with Díaz; Edwin Rapalo; Edilson Duarte Meza; and Oscar Torres.

An eighth defendant, Emerson Duarte Meza, was cleared of charges and freed Thursday.

Cáceres' family members welcomed Thursday's verdict, but were unsatisfied and demanded the masterminds of the murder plot and financiers be brought to justice.

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"Today there's no satisfaction, or happiness, but we are glad to see jailed the killers who murdered my mother simply for defending natural resources at a moment when she was defenseless," said Olivia Zuniga, Cáceres's eldest daughter. "We don't want revenge because we are not killers like them, but we demand that the masterminds behind the murder be brought to justice."

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