Monday, January 18, 2016

Notes on the road about today's trial

After an anxious hour waiting outside the elevators on the 14th floor of the Torre de Tribunales, the court building on the edge of Zona 9 in Guatemala City, when we were nearly certain that today's scheduled hearing would be canceled because once again the penitentiary system had failed to transport the defendants to court, the elevators opened and we saw the smiling faces of Rigoberto and Domingo -- faces smiling because the sight that greeted their eyes when the doors opened was about three dozen people, including representatives of human rights organizations, family members, alternative media people, regular journalists, and people from civil society organizations and churches in Santa Eulalia. And smiling because at least they were able to make it to court; there wouldn't be that excuse. But as soon as the proceedings started a series of actions from the MP and the plantiffs' attorneys. First accusing the journalists present of intimidation. That people with cameras and recorders were somehow threatening the prosecution and accusers. The judge dismissed that. Then the translator asked to be replaced, saying that he had a work relationship with Rigoberto and they should find a different translator. The lawyers for the defense tried to argue that the state was obligated to offer a translator but the defendants could waive their right to have one and that should not hold up the proceeding. The last straw was the absence of the former Mayor of Santa Eulalia, one of the plaintiffs. He has come to exactly one hearing in 10 months and the defense argued that his right to be present should not trump the rights of the defendants to a speedy trial so that they would not be deprived of liberty. The judge allowed Rigoberto and Domingo to speak, and they had already been uncuffed, and they addressed the court very forcefully and eloquently but the judge called for a postponement until February 26, and for the former Mayor to have 48 hours to explain his absence. 

This was pretty much the kind of delaying tactic we expected, but it was still frustrating and disappointing. 

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