Updated Wednesday September 18: Simcoe Honduras group sponsors meeting in Freeland’s riding
Karen Spring, Edwin Espinal and Janet Spring flank Raul Alvarez after he’s released from La Tolva jail in Honduras
The following meeting is being sponsored by the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee:
Canada’s Role in Honduras
When: Wednesday September 18 at 7 p.m.
Where: St. Stephens-In-The-Fields- Church, 365 College, Toronto.
Yves Engler – Montreal-based author and activist
Dr. Tyler Shipley – author and York University professor
Yurissa Varela – UN University, member of the Honduro-Toronto community, migrant justice organizer
Karen Spring – Honduras Solidarity Network Coordinator, Tegucigalpa Honduras, spouse of Edwin Espinal.
The Toronto event will be held in Minister Chrystia Freeland’s riding in the midst of the October election campaign. We wish to bring attention to the role our government during Freeland’s tenure has played in Honduras.
Canada continues to do business as usual with the Honduran regime, despite serious allegations against President Juan Orlando Hernandez for narco-trafficking, corruption and committing severe human rights abuses against the people.
To date, Minister Freeland and PM Trudeau have not publicly spoken against the JOH government.
Update from Janet Spring Springwater News August 20 1019
Finally, after almost 19 months, our hopes and struggles with your strong advocacy and support have come true! On Thursday August 9, 2019, Edwin Espinal was released on his own recognizance in a bail hearing in Tegucigalpa; Raul Alvarez was released on Friday August 16 with similar conditions.
These are the moments that all supporters, families, Honduran and international human rights groups have been waiting for. As I write this update, I am in Tegucigalpa for a week to celebrate this momentous occasion with Edwin, Karen, Raul, their families, and international human rights supporters who have also traveled to Honduras for this event.
For the past week, Edwin has rested and spent time with Karen and his family. On the weekend, we travelled to a few quaint Honduran towns to get away from the city. Edwin has gone shopping, assembled a trampoline for his nieces in the backyard and is enjoying reading the newspaper and listening to music, things that he was unable to do for so long. I find it very exciting being with Edwin and Karen when people in the streets or at the grocery store or mall, come up and congratulate him on his release, thanking him for standing up for human rights of the Honduran people. Many he doesn’t know. Edwin is very well respected in his community and throughout Honduras for his human rights work.
Edwin’s Bail Hearing:
At Edwin’s bail hearing of Thursday August 9th, three presiding judges from the National Jurisdiction Court were quick to bring down their decision for his release. Edwin and Raul’s pre-trial detentions were arbitrary and unfounded (facts that we have been arguing for the past 19 months) yet they were sent to a maximum-security prison. This release was perhaps due to the arbitrary nature of their detention or the fact that President Juan Orlando Hernandez has lost credibility throughout the country and on the international stage. Yet it is disturbing that Edwin and Raul were severely compromised for such a long period, awaiting a decision that only took the three-judge panel 45 minutes to make. Why did it take three bail hearings for the judicial system to come to this resolution? Is it because President Juan Orlando Hernandez is about to fall?
Edwin attended his scheduled trial hearing on Thursday August 15th, which was another successful event to celebrate. (Raul’s is later next week). The judges would not accept most of the circumstantial evidence presented by the public prosecutor. Edwin’s lawyers provided solid arguments that made the prosecution’s case look very weak. The court also flatly denied the prosecution’s request for an appeal of their decision. Edwin’s full trial date is set for May 14, 2020 and his lawyer is confident that the decision will be very favourable. In attendance were representatives from the Canadian and EU Embassies. They both remarked that they would be following Edwin’s upcoming trial. Edwin and Raul must sign before a judge weekly and cannot leave the country. Edwin must apply for special permission to the courts if he wishes to visit Canada.
Protests Continue: Two Political Prisoners Remain
Despite this quick and very positive outcome in both hearings, yet 19 months in coming, two political prisoners remain in gruesome conditions. The most concerning is the case of Gustavo Caceres, who is mentally challenged; he cannot read, write, or speak. He was arrested when military police planted drugs on his person and took photos of him. Merely selling bags of water in the protest to support his mother and himself, his arrest was a setup.
A second political prisoner, Rommel Portillo, remains in La Tolva, arrested in late May after allegedly placing a tire on a fire burning outside the US Embassy. His court date is unknown; we fear for his safety in La Tolva. Like Edwin, Raul, and Gustavo’s detention, being sent to a maximum-security prison is arbitrary and excessive for the alleged crime. Hence international human rights groups and those in Honduras continue to pressure authorities for his release. The Honduran people remain in the streets, marching and peacefully protesting the corruption of this narco-trafficking government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and demanding the release of all political prisoners.
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor continues to advocate for Edwin’s safety as he may face danger; Edwin will therefore be accompanied at all times for his protection. We also are concerned for Raul’s wellbeing.
For further information, please refer to the latest Toronto Star article by columnist Rick Salutin on Edwin and Karen’s crisis entitled, The strange and distasteful case of Canada and Honduras
In terms of a Canadian celebration for Edwin, we are eagerly anticipating the time when Edwin will be able to visit Canada. After Edwin is hopefully exonerated in his trial in May, 2020, SCHRM will be planning a community celebration to provide an opportunity for our extended family, friends, and community neighbours to meet Edwin and to celebrate his release from prison. Perhaps it may be earlier if Edwin obtains special permission from the courts and if a visitor visa to Canada is granted by our Canadian government (Edwin was denied a visitor visa twice to Canada in the past).
We thank our community who have supported the SCHRM in raising awareness of our Elmvale family crisis for the past nineteen months and your continued advocacy for political prisoners in Honduras. Also thank you to Michael Jacobs of Springwater News for publishing our bi-weekly updates and for his ongoing advocacy for our cause! We look forward to celebrating together with our whole community, hopefully in the very near future!