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Berta Caceres Murder: DESA Corporation’s Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed

The civil defamation suit against a Honduran activist connected to slain Indigenous leader Berta Caceres was thrown out last week.

The civil defamation suit against a Honduran activist connected to slain Indigenous leader Berta Caceres was thrown out last week, the plaintiff was the DESA Corporation which Caceres had fought against for many years.
On March 20, Judge Sonia Marlene Barahona declared that the case against Suyapa Martinez, a leader of the Center for Women's Studies – Honduras (CEM-H), was "annulled" due to inadmissible charges and other errors.

Human rights activists in Honduras and throughout the world supported Martinez' struggle. Representatives of the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Center for Justice and International Law signed letters calling for her acquittal.

Local advocate Bertha Oliva of the Committee of Families of the Disappeared/Detained of Honduras (COFADEH) saw the lawsuit as part of a larger effort to shut down dissent.

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"I believe those that have the power to kill, to throw people in jail and have the justice system to do with as they please, will return to make another mistake...we must see this case as an attack against the reclamation of justice and the right to know the truth," Oliva said.

While the activists were celebrating the defeat of the suit, the DESA Corporation was given the option of appealing the case by March 24 but did not file according to reports.

It was on February 28 that DESA filed suit alleging that Martinez had made false declarations regarding links between DESA and the murder of Caceres, and that these statements damaged the company. They were suing Martinez and the CEM-H for the equivalent of $42,000.

According to a press release from the Center for Justice and International Law, the suit referred to a televised debate from November of last year where Martinez noted the fact that Caceres had said she received numerous death threats from people connected to DESA. The show included other human rights activists and one of the themes was impunity of other people involved with Caceres' murder.

One of the men arrested for the murder is Lt. Douglas Giovanny Bustillo who had been head of security for the DESA Corporation. In January the Agua Zarca Project Board of Corporate Relations denied any connection to Sgt. Henry Javier Hernandez Rodriguez who was also arrested in connection with the murder of Berta Caceres.