A court in Honduras has found seven men guilty of the murder of renowned environmental activist Berta Caceres who was shot dead in her home by gunmen in 2016 after receiving death threats for her opposition to the Aqua Zarca hydro-electric dam.
Judges at the court in Tegucigalpa November 29 said two officials from the construction firm Desa - Sergio Rodríguez and Douglas Bustillo - had helped organize the killing along with former soldier Mariano Díaz. Desa has strongly denied any involvement in the murder.
Also convicted were Henry Hernandez, Elvin Rapalo, Edilson Duarte and Oscar Torres who were described as hired assassins. Desa executive Roberto David Castillo is still awaiting trial in the case.
In 2015 Ms Caceres had won the prestigious Goldman prize for her long battle against the dam project. She was praised for having rallied the indigenous Lenca people and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the dam builder to halt its project.
The dam would have flooded large areas of land and cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people.
Death Threats Reported In 2013
In 2013 OOSKAnews reported that at least 50 defenders of human rights had received death threats for defending their communities and Honduras land and water resources.
At that time Caceres, along with activists Aureliano Molina and Thomas Gomez, was being charged with theft, coercion and damage to the "Agua Zarca" hydroelectric project. Caceres and Gomez were also charged with weapons possession; they said the weapons were planted on them.
The Agua Zarca project is being developed by Honduran company DESA and China’s Sinohydro Corporation in the community of Río Blanco, in ancestral lands of the indigenous Lenca people. DESA said then that damages caused by activists totaled over $3 Million USD.
The project involves construction of a 21.3-megawatt hydropower facility on the Gualcarque River, a tributary of the Ulúa River.