Honduran police arrest executive in environmental activist's death

A hydroelectric executive was arrested Friday and accused of helping to plan the murder of Honduran environmental act...

Posted: Mar 4, 2018 7:26 PM
Updated: Mar 4, 2018 7:26 PM

A hydroelectric executive was arrested Friday and accused of helping to plan the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta C-ceres two years ago, the country's prosecutors said.

Roberto David Castillo Mej-a, executive president of Desarrollos Energ-ticos Sociedad An-nima (DESA), was detained Friday at the Ram-n Villeda Morales International Airport in the Honduran capital as he was trying to flee the country, the Honduran attorney general's office said on Twitter.

He is accused of "providing logistics and other resources to one of the perpetrators of the murder," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

In an email to CNN, DESA called the detention "unjust," adding that Castillo and "all members of DESA are totally disconnected to any act of violence, and the company rejects this decision, which was made based on international pressure and smear campaigns against the company, conducted by NGOs," the statement said.

The company has long denied any connection to the murder. Castillo is the ninth suspect arrested in the activist's death. The other suspects include two former DESA employees, a former Honduran military sergeant and a former major in the country's armed forces. Castillo also served in the Honduran military as a second lieutenant in the military intelligence unit. All nine are currently behind bars.

C-ceres was fatally shot in her home in western Honduras on March 2, 2016. Just a year earlier, she had won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her grassroots campaign against the construction of a dam on a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. The dam was a joint project between DESA and a state-owned Chinese company. The Goldman Prize's website says construction on the dam project has now effectively stopped.

In a report released November of last year, a panel of international legal experts concluded that executives from DESA, state agents and officials were involved in planning, executing and attempting to cover up her death.

The panel was created at the request of the late activist's family and the organization she co-founded, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), after both raised concerns about the legitimacy of the Honduran government's investigation.

CNN has reached out to the Honduran government for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Following the news of Castillo's arrest, COPINH released a statement expressing gratitude for the pressure campaign brought by national and international groups, adding that "no thanks is due to the attorney general's office, who have tried everything possible to cover up the truth in this case."

CNN reached out the attorney general's office for comment. In a social media message, spokesperson Yuri Mora said, "what we can assure is that we have acted with a lot of professionalism and responsibility in this case and the actions speak for themselves."

"We appreciate the arrest of an alleged mastermind who was intricately involved in the planning of Berta's assassination but this is only one in a string of long overdue arrests as we have stated previously," Silvio Carrillo, C-ceres' nephew, told CNN.

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