PBI-Guatemala accompanies Q’eqchi’ river defender Bernardo Caal Xol to court, next hearing scheduled for March 20
On March 6, PBI-Guatemala posted:
“#PBI accompanies Bernardo Caal Xol to the debate of the Maestro case in which he is accused of misappropriation of salary during a union leave. The hearing was scheduled at the request of the MP [Public Ministry] and the plaintiff PGN [the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation] to provide new evidence. However, when asked by the judge, both prosecuting entities acknowledged that they had no new evidence. According to the technical defence, this is a strategy to delay the trial against the Q’eqchi’ defender because the presentation of the conclusions could have begun today. Organizations are invited to attend the next hearing on 20 March at 8:30 am.”
Prensa Comunitaria has previously explained:
“Caal regained his freedom on March 24 , 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 , 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.