PBI-Guatemala accompanies Mayan Q’eqchi’ water protector Bernardo Caal Xol and lawyers at criminalization hearing

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On February 20, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“#PBI accompanies the lawyers of the Legal Bureau of Human Rights and Bernardo Caal Xol of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón in the hearing of Bernardo’s case, who is criminalized for having received a teacher’s salary when he worked full-time for the teachers’ union. At today’s hearing another teacher who was part of the union’s executive committee testified as a witness. In his statement, the witness explained the legality of the facts. The next hearing to issue the sentence will be March 6.”

Prensa Comunitaria has previously explained:

Caal regained his freedom on March 24 [2022], after spending more than four years in prison, for a sentence of seven years and four months in prison, issued by the Sentencing Court of Cobán for defending the rivers in Santa María Cahabón.

Caal is [now] accused of the crime of improper retention.

The events of which the Mayan Q’eqchi’ professor … is accused, occurred in 2013. In the accusation against him … they point out that between January 2012 and August 2013 he did not show up for work.

Caal served as a teacher and in 2012 was Deputy General Secretary of the Union of Education Workers of Guatemala (STEG). …The law empowers trade union leaders to have eight working days a month to do the work that corresponds to them; in the collective agreement of 2008 this situation was changed and the days were increased.

Caal is surprised by the accusation, because the law says that, if a worker is absent three days in a row, the fourth his salary should be suspended, so when he [first] voluntarily appeared before the judge on June 21, he said that at no time had he defrauded the State.

[Caal says STEG leader] Joviel Acevedo and the former Minister of Education Cynthia del Águila, were the ones who initiated the conditions for his criminalization from his union work that coincided with the defense of the Cahabón River.

[PBI has also noted: “Caal maintains his innocence in the matter. An administrative procedure by the Ministry of Education, in any case, should have preceded any criminal complaint. Caal and his attorneys argue that the charges were lodged against him in reprisal for his work to defend land, territory, and the environment.”]

In this process, until the intermediate stage, MINEDUC [the Ministry of Education] and the Attorney General’s Office (PGN) participated as complainants in the case; at the beginning of the trial on September 7 [2022], only the PGN and the MP [Public Ministry] were present.

Although [Caal] is clear about what can happen in the trial, he does not lose hope of the resistance and mobilizations at the national level for the defense of natural assets and justice.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied Bernardo Caal and the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since August 2017.

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