Honduras Coup Government Detains Father of Boy Who Died in Protests

Community Leader David Murillo in Jail on Years-Old Arrest Warrant for Anti-Logging Organizing

The Honduras coup government has detained Jose David Murillo Sanchez, the father of Ulises Obed Murillo, who died last Sunday at the Toncontin airport when security forces opened fire on Munuel Zelaya supporters gathered to receive the president during his attempted return to Honduras.

Honduras' National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC in its Spanish initials) detained Murillo Sanchez yesterday as we was leaving the offices of the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Detained Persons in Honduras (COFADEH).  Murillo is a lawyer for COFADEH. 

A DNIC spokesperson told TeleSUR that police detained Murillo Sanchez on a 2007 warrant when a judge declared him "in contempt" for violation the terms of his probation.  Murillo Sanchez, who is still in police custody, must now go before a court to determine if he will be imprisoned.  TeleSUR warns that the court takes orders from the coup government.

COFADEH leader Bertha Oliva lamented in a radio interview, "These are the condolenses that the coup government sends to the Sanchez family after the armed forces of Honduras killed Ulises Obed Murillo."  Oliva argues that the detention of Murillo Sanchez is a "terrorist act" designed to intimidate the family so that they don't file charges against the military for the boy's murder.

Political Persecution

Oliva, in an interview published on the Latin American Radio Education Association website, explains that the charges against Murillo Sanchez stem from his involvement in protecting his community from a logging company.  Murillo Sanchez has lead the fight against logging companies in his community of Santa Cruz in Honduras' Olancho department. 

Gilberto Flores, a member of the Environmentalist Movement of Olancho, speaking at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in California in 2004, said that during that time about 200 trucks full of timber left Olancho every day. Flores argues that heavy logging has resulted in longer summers and draughts in Olancho, which has negatively impacted agricultural production.

The logging industry's impact on Olancho was acutely felt in Santa Cruz.  Oliva explains that Murillo Sanchez and his community were particularly concerned about the effect clear-cutting was having on water basins that supply Santa Cruz.  As part of a broader campaign against anti-logging community organizers--which included death threats, imprisonment, police harassment, and at least one assassination--Murillo Sanchez was accused of attempted homicide in 2002.

Oliva says that Murillo Sanchez was charged with attempted homicide because two people, "under the orders of the logging company," claimed that they were receiving death threats.  The government arrested Murillo Sanchez, but soon thereafter freed him, leaving him with the impression that his legal troubles were behind him.  However, Oliva says that the government never informed Murillo Sanchez that he was released on probation and had to check in periodically with judicial authorities--a common tactic so that the government can keep tabs on community organizers.  Therefore, Murillo Sanchez didn't know that he was supposed to periodically check in with judicial authorities as part of the terms of his release.

Oliva says that no one from the government ever went to Murillo Sanchez's home to look for him when he didn't show up for his periodic check-ins.  It could have done this easily enough if it had wanted to--Murillo Sanchez has never moved out his home in Santa Cruz where his eleven children were born and raised.

Rather than informing Murillo Sanchez that he was in violation of his probation, a DNIC spokesperson who spoke with TeleSUR says that authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2007.  Again, even though the government knew exactly where to find Murillo Sanchez, it didn't act on the warrant.  Instead, it waited for an opportune time to use it against the community leader. 

Now that the coup government murdered the son of a community leader in Olancho--where President Zelaya is born and where some of the most intense protests and repression have taken place as a result of the coup--it has decided to shut up Murillo Sanchez by throwing him in jail.

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