TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Two dozen supporters of Honduras’ ousted president were charged with sedition Friday in an intensifying crackdown on protests against the coup-installed government.
Protests to demand the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya turned violent in the Honduran capital this week, with police firing tear gas and demonstrators fighting back with sticks and stones. Some protesters attacked the vice president of Congress, although he wasn’t injured.
Some 24 demonstrators were charged with sedition and damaging private property, said Melvin Duarte, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office. Another four were charged with aggravated arson and terrorism in the burning of a bus and a restaurant.
Interim President Roberto Micheletti condemned the clashes as “violent and terrorist” and vowed his government would no longer tolerate street blockades and other disruptions.Zelaya, a timber magnate who veered to the left midway through his presidency, was ousted by the army June 28 and flown out of the country.
Micheletti, the former congressional president chosen by lawmakers to replace Zelaya, has refused to consider reinstating the ousted leader despite worldwide condemnation and the suspension of millions of dollars in U.S. and European development aid.
Micheletti insists Zelaya was legally removed from office through a congressional vote for defying court orders to drop plans for referendum asking voters if they would support rewriting the constitution
Zelaya’s opponents accuse him of seeking to extend his term in office by removing a constitutional ban on presidential re-election, as his ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya, whose constitutional four-year term ends Jan. 27, denies that was his intention.
Protest leader Eulogio Chavez accused the interim government of persecuting demonstrators and denied that the four charged with burning the bus and restaurant committed those acts.
The demonstrators were charged three days before human rights monitors from the Organization of American States are scheduled to arrive in Honduras. Days later, several Latin American foreign ministers are due to visit the country in an effort to jump-start stalled negotiations aimed at ending the crisis.
Four delegates of Micheletti’s government returned to Honduras on Friday after meetings in Washington with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza and U.S. lawmakers.
The delegates called the meetings positive but gave no hint about whether the interim government might budge on the issue of Zelaya’s return.
“We explained to everyone in detail what happened in Honduras before, during and after June 28,” delegate Mauricio Villeda told reporters. “With Insulza, we had private conversations and we explained what happened in the country and our right to live in democracy and peace.”
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Last night at 11:23 p.m., during curfew which began at 10 p.m., unknown individuals driving a cream colour Toyota Turismo with the license plate PCA1981 fired bullets at the office of Vía Campesina located in the Alameda neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras which is coordinated by Rafael Alegría. The act was a clear attack against our social organizations and leaders who are part of the National Front Against the Coup. In addition to the recent attack on Vía Campesina, a bomb capable of killing 15 people went off in the building of the Beverage Workers Union (STIBYS, by its Spanish initials) on July 26th 2009. Both organizations are part of the National Front Against the Coup.
We condemn this incident given that the activities of Vía Campesina and the National Front Against the Coup are completely peaceful. It is important to mention that during curfew only police are permitted to be in the street.
Vía Campesina of Honduras calls for support from national and international human rights organizations to remain attentive and to continue following attacks taking place not only against these organizations and their leadership, but also against the human rights of the entire Honduran people and all those who have been protesting in the streets against the coup for the last 46 days. Rafael Alegría comments, “People’s rights are being violated and it’s a truly unfortunate situation at the moment. People have been wounded, jailed and killed.”
According to a preliminary report from lawyers assisting the National Front Against the Coup today, hundreds of people were wounded and more than forty people detained following violence occurring after a peaceful mass mobilization in the capital city on Tuesday. The group of lawyers is seeking the liberation of those arrested through Habeas Corpus. The leadership of the Front insists that the disturbances were carried out by people who were not part of the protest, but rather infiltrators interested in provoking confrontations and disparaging the peaceful protests that the Front has been mobilizing. The people detained are accused of rebellion, terrorism and treason among other crimes.
Alegría emphasizes that “The National Front Against the Coup is not responsible for these incidents. On principle the front supports peaceful marches, peaceful demands and peaceful mobilization. At no point do we use or call for violent acts. It appears that these incidents are the responsibility of groups interested in ruining the social mobilization and they have taken it upon themselves to provoke this situation for which we categorically deny any responsibility.”
Given what has taken place in the last 24 hours, Vía Campesina of Honduras calls out to the entire Vía Campesina network, social movements, as well as national and international human rights organizations to send messages or delegations in solidarity with the resistance against the coup and for the defence of human rights in Honduras, and to assist in bringing about an end to so much injustice and violence against the Honduran people.
Please send complaints and messages of solidarity to the following addresses:
State Secretary of Public Security
Coronel Jorge Rodas Gamero
Fax: (504) 237-9070/ 220-55-47
Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in the Attorney General’s Office
Lcda. Sandra Ponce
Fiscal Especial de Derechos Humanos
Fax: (504) 221-3656
Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH)
President Andrés Pavón
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Committee of Relatives of People Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)
Coordinadora Bertha Oliva
Vía Campesina of Honduras
Comunicaciones Via Campesina en Honduras