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Janet Spring renews call for Canadian government action on Espinal case

In AWARE News Network
Feb 6th, 2019
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in friendly discussion with Honduras Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Dolores Agüero.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in friendly discussion with Honduras Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Dolores Agüero at the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa. Janet Spring today (Feb, 6 2019) renewed her request for a meeting with Freeland and Trudeau since they have now been able to meet Agüero, with whom Karen Spring has had contact regarding Espinal’s case. 

‘No meaningful response’ from Honduran ambassador, mayor tells community meeting

AWARE News Network

Kate Harries Springwater News

The wife of a political prisoner detained in Honduras, speaking by Skype to a meeting in her home town in rural Ontario, has called on the Canadian government for help in her efforts to free her husband.

It’s been a year since Karen Spring’s husband Edwin Espinal, a human rights activist, was arrested on trumped-up charges in the wake of protests against the fraudulent 2017 elections that kept President Juan Orlando Hernandez in power.

With her image projected on a wall of the Elmvale community hall, Spring told of the harsh conditions under which Espinal is being held in a military prison two hours from her home in Tegulcigalpa, how a painful ear infection left untreated for a month has caused him to lose the hearing in one ear, and how she has had to fight to get to visit him, which is the only way she can find out anything about him as communication by phone or letter or through prison authorities is not allowed.

“Since we were married on October 18 last year, I’ve been only able to see him for six hours,” she said. Spring said she is working with lawyers as there may be an announcement soon of a hearing to be held in her husband’s case. It will determine whether the case will be thrown out or go forward. “We are basically preparing for a show trial,” she said, because of the politicized nature of the Honduran court system.

“Today is important, not only because you’re there,” she told the January 27 2019 gathering of about 90 people, adding that she draws strength from their support. “It’s the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of the president and Hondurans all over the country are taking to the streets today in protest.”

It’s time the Canadian government stopped backing the Hernandez regime, she said.

Karen’s mother Janet, just returned from a trip to Honduras, decried ‘horrific” conditions in the LaTolva jail – so horrific that the Canadian embassy representative who visited Espinal there last week fainted after coming out of the module where he is being held.

“Prisoners are not being treated as human beings,” Janet Spring said. “Our Canadian government is complicit in this because they have not called out the Hernandez regime for these violations of human rights,” she said. The Canadian embassy has made two token visits to the prison, she said, but has not spoken out against Espinal’s treatment.

Janet Spring added: “We all expect our Canadian government to support us and our family members, to rally for us when there are problems, to uphold human rights and take a stand when we need help, but the Canadian government has done none of this.”

Moderator Pierre-Paul Maurice, Grahame Russell, Rev.-\Meg Ryan and MPP Doug Downey at Elmvale community update. -AWARE Simcoe photoJohn Spring –Karen’s father – referred to a recent international intervention by Canada, the safe haven offered to 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who has no Canadian connection. “Why do you think that a Saudi girl gets the attention of our prime minister, our foreign affair minister but yet Jan has been down to Ottawa six times in the past year and the best we’ve been able to do is get to one of (Chrystia) Freeland’s top aides?” Spring asked.

He directed the question to provincial Progressive Conservative MPP Doug Downey, one of the invited speakers.

Freeland’s actions were “odd on several levels,” Downey replied. “I don’t have a straight answer for you.” Downey said he has an understanding of the family’s case through the work of Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton, and he intends to do what he can to help if intervention at the provincial level is possible.

Stanton was unable to attend and sent a statement that was read out. MP Alex Nuttall, who has sponsored a House of Commons petition, did not make the meeting either. He has sponsored an e-petition  that people are urged to sign before it closes at 3:47 pm on Feb. 7 2019.

Those speakers that did attend despite snow squalls that reduced visibility and made driving a challenge were:

– Grahame Russell of Rights Action, also recently returned from Honduras. He warned that Espinal, who has been placed in a military jail to be made an example of to deter others from opposing the government, is at serious risk of being attacked or killed.

The government could decide that it’s had enough of the attention being paid to him, there would be “another riot in the jail like there was already, then all a sudden it will come out in the news that someone like Edwin was caught in the crossfire of a riot between prisoners and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

The Canadian government’s support for the corrupt and repressive Hernandez regime is rooted in economic interests, Russell said – backing the activities of Canadian mining, tourism and manufacturing companies that take advantage of rich land vacated by forced evictions, permissive environmental laws and cheap labour.

He added that the Canadian media never writes about Canada’s role in Central America – with one shining exception: “There’s this young journalist publishing in Collingwood Today that is the best media in Canada about what’s going on in Honduras. That’s a problem. That’s not just a ‘oops, we missed the story,’ that’s a problem, and our media is playing a certain role in promoting and not critically looking at Canadian foreign policy.”

– Springwater Mayor Don Allen said that last year, after Springwater council voted to support the Spring family’s efforts to free Espinal, he made contact with the Honduran ambassador “and tried to have a constructive dialogue. But there was no meaningful response.” Allen conveyed support from Simcoe County Warden George Cornell and promised that the new Springwater council as well as county council will revisit the matter.

– Springwater Councillor Perry Ritchie called on all to get involved. “This year is a federal election,” he said. “This is your chance to speak.”

More information: Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor

See also:

Report on Honduras Torture Centres by Karen Spring

Espinal case in Honduras an ‘affront,’ MP says

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