Honduras Charges Military Heads with “Abuse of Authority” in June Abduction of Zelaya
Four articles: CNN, AFP, AL JAZEERA, and WSJ
The Honduran high command, including Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the country’s top military chief, face charges for bursting into Zelaya’s residence and transporting the president to neighboring Costa Rica, Attorney General Luis Rubi said.
The June 28 coup deepened a political crisis that remains unresolved, despite a new president being elected in November.
Rubi himself filed the arrest warrants at the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
In addition to abuse of power, the military commanders face charges of illegal expatriation of a citizen.
The manner in which Zelaya was ousted was key in how other countries and international bodies interpreted the military action.
The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti and his supporters have insisted that Zelaya’s removal was a constitutional transfer of power.
But the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union and most nations — including the United States — condemned the coup and demanded that Zelaya be reinstated immediately
The crisis erupted in June when Zelaya — despite congressional and supreme court decisions calling it illegal — pushed forward with a plan to hold a referendum that could have led to changing the constitution to allow for additional presidential terms.
The Supreme Court signed an arrest warrant for Zelaya but not to send him into exile.
Now, the Supreme Court has three days to decide whether to ratify the charges and start a case against the military officers.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Ramiro Archaga said that the military respects the rule of law and are willing to appear before the justice system.
The announcement of the arrest warrants came as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly visited with the key players in the crisis in Honduras.
Kelly met with Micheletti Wednesday, though details of the talks were unknown except for a statement from acting Honduran Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez Contreras, saying that calls for Micheletti’s resignation were not part of the dialogue.
Meanwhile, Zelaya remained holed up inside the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. He has been there ever since sneaking back into the country in September.
In another development, the Honduran congress was to take up the issue of amnesty for Zelaya and other players in the crisis next week.
Honduras military chiefs charged with abuse of power
Defense & Security News — By Agence France-Presse on January 7, 2010 at 4:58 am
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras: Honduras’ attorney general charged the country’s top military chiefs with “abuse of power” for a coup that ousted president Manuel Zelaya, a Supreme Court spokesman told AFP.
“They are various commanders, and the crimes are abuse of power,” said Danilo Izaguirre, adding that the court had three days to respond to the charges filed by Attorney General Luis Rubi.
Armed forces chief of staff General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, Air Force chief Venancio Cervantes and Navy chief Luis Javier Prince were among those accused over the arrest and expulsion of Zelaya to Costa Rica on June 28.
An army spokesman told local radio America that Vasquez had called on military lawyers to take on the case.
Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since returning to Honduras in September, immediately dismissed the charges as superficial and accused the de facto regime of using new tricks.
“Today, using a new stratagem, the attorney general who has equal or more responsibility as the soldiers, is presenting accusations… to achieve impunity for the soldiers by accusing them of minor crimes,” Zelaya said in a statement.
The Supreme Court, as well as the Congress and business leaders, backed left-leaning Zelaya’s expulsion during a dispute over his plans to change the constitution, which critics saw as a bid to prolong his mandate.
Rights groups had called on the country’s legal institutions to denounce the military for their involvement in the coup and heavy-handed clampdowns on protests by Zelaya supporters in its aftermath.
Wednesday’s announcement came as a top US envoy left Honduras without comment after a two-day visit seeking an exit to the deep political crisis set off by the coup.
De facto foreign minister Carlos Lopez told a news conference that the latest visit by Craig Kelly, the second highest US diplomat to Latin America, had been “very constructive,” and that he had met with de facto leader Roberto Micheletti for almost three hours.
“The issue of a possible resignation was not tackled,” Lopez said.
Micheletti earlier said the United States had offered “millions of dollars in aid” to Honduras if he would step down, in a television interview cited by print media here.
The United States, along with the European Union and international organizations, froze millions of dollars of much-needed aid to Honduras after the coup.
Kelly also met briefly with Porfirio Lobo, who won controversial November presidential elections held under the coup regime, after speaking to Zelaya inside the Brazilian embassy on Tuesday.
Micheletti said Wednesday he would still step down on January 27, when conservative Lobo is due to take office.
Many critics, particularly in Latin America, slammed November’s polls as an endorsement to the coup in a region with a painful history of dictatorships.
They sought for Zelaya to return to office to finish his term as a possible solution to the crisis.
But the future of Zelaya, who is threatened with arrest, remained uncertain.
The Honduran Congress was meanwhile preparing to debate an amnesty for those involved in the coup, which could be approved next week.
Honduras’ attorney-general has charged the country’s senior military chiefs with “abuse of power” for a coup that removed Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president, according to a supreme court spokesman.
Danilo Izaguirre told the AFP news agency that the court had three days to respond to the charges.
“They are various commanders, and the crimes are abuse of power,” he said.
Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the armed forces chief of staff; Venancio Cervantes, the air force chief; and Luis Javier Prince, the navy chief, were among those accused over the arrest and expulsion of Zelaya to Costa Rica on June 28.
An army spokesman told local radio that Vasquez had called on military lawyers to take on the case.
Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since returning to Honduras in September, immediately dismissed the charges as superficial and accused the de facto government of using new tricks.
“Today, using a new stratagem, the attorney-general who has equal or more responsibility as the soldiers, is presenting accusations … to achieve impunity for the soldiers by accusing them of minor crimes,” Zelaya said in a statement.
The Honduran congress is set to to debate an amnesty for those involved in the coup, which could be approved next week.
Roberto Micheletti, the country’s de facto leader, said on Wednesday he would step down on January 27, when conservative Porfirio Lobo, who who won controversial November presidential elections, is due to take office.
Micheletti also said, in a television interview cited by the Honduran national media, that the US had offered “millions of dollars in aid” to the country if he would step down.
The US along with the European Union and international organisations, froze millions of dollars of much-needed aid to Honduras after the coup.
Many critics of the Micheletti’s military-backed government, particularly in Latin America, said November’s poll were an endorsement to the coup in a region with a painful history of dictatorships.
They have sought for Zelaya to return to office to finish his term as a possible solution to the crisis.
* JANUARY 7, 2010
By NICHOLAS CASEY
The Honduran attorney general’s office issued charges against three military chiefs who ousted President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint in June, in what could prove to be the first big move taken by the government against the military for its role in the coup.
Roy Urtecho, the Honduran deputy attorney general, said his office was charging them with “abuse of authority” for forcing the president out of the country. The charges, presented to the Honduran Supreme Court, were brought against Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, commander of the Honduran armed forces; Venancio Cervantes, commander of the air force; and Luis Javier Prince, commander of the naval forces.
Mr. Zelaya was ousted after a long standoff with the country’s courts, congress and military over a referendum that would have floated the idea of rewriting the constitution. The military and civilian government has maintained that he was ousted on orders of the Supreme Court.
But the attorney general’s office says the the military men overstepped their authority by sending Mr. Zelaya out of the country. The Honduran constitution prohibits the forced removal of citizens from the country. While Mr. Zelaya had been legally deposed as president, he still was a citizen when he was flown to Costa Rica.
Write to Nicholas Casey at email@example.com