PBI-Honduras observes trial of student activist accused of arson at US Embassy during national strike protests
On January 26, PBI-Honduras posted:
“We observe the trial of Henry Bonilla [Acevedo] for the burning of [tires in front of] the US embassy in a protest on [May 31st, 2019]. The @defencofadeh [Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras/COFADEH] denounces the criminalization of the national strike. We highlight the work of the #DDHH [human rights] of COFADEH and their work to respect the right to demonstrate.”
The anti-privatization protests
On April 30, 2019, just before the protest in question, Reuters reported:
“[Protests are taking] place as a work-stoppage continued in schools and some hospitals, after unions representing teachers and doctors launched strikes late last week. President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who leads a conservative government allied with the United States, has defended the two bills as needed overhauls of the health and public education systems, including plans for new infrastructure and better training of workers. His allies deny that the bills, approved late last week but still requiring a final vote, would privatize services or would lead to mass layoffs, another fear of the protesters.”
AP/CNN photo of protest at US Embassy on May 31, 2019.
In June 2019, Deutsche Welle reported: “After footage of riots, barricaded streets, masked police officers and firebombs outside the US Embassy went around the word, Hernandez caved in. He withdrew his decrees and offered to engage in dialogue with the protesters.”
Photo: “Military police officers shoot tear gas at students during clashes in Tegucigalpa.”
And in July 2019, Amnesty International explained:
“The current generalized discontent of the population was provoked by the approval, on 25 April, of laws that transformed the national health education systems, which in the opinion of teachers’ leaders and the Medical College of Honduras, will lead to the privatization of these sectors and the massive dismissal of employees. Although these laws were repealed, protesters have continued to demand the president’s resignation.”
They further noted:
“In a desperate attempt to silence the voices demanding his resignation, President Hernández has used the armed forces to control the protests. According to information gathered by Amnesty International, during this period the security forces have indiscriminately used less-than-lethal weapons, such as tear gas or rubber bullets, causing injury to dozens of people. In total, six people have been killed in this context since April, four of them by firearms, of which at least three were at the hands of the security forces.”
While Hernández was supported by the United States at the time of these protests, the month after his eight-year presidency concluded in January 2022, he was arrested on drug trafficking and weapons charges. In April 2022, Hernández was extradited to the U.S. to face trial. That trial is now expected to begin on February 12.
Photo of Hernandez being extradited to the U.S. in April 2022.
Acevedo arrested and jailed in 2021
Following the anti-privatization protest at the US Embassy in May 2019, Bonilla Acevedo was arrested in August 2021 and spent four months and 10 days in the “Marco Aurelio Soto” National Penitentiary in Tamara, about 50 kilometres northwest of Tegucigalpa.
PBI-Honduras visited with Bonilla Acevedo in prison on December 7, 2021. At that time, it posted: “PBI accompanies @Cofadeh to visit Henry Bonilla, student accused of participating in the burning of tires in front of the US embassy in protests for #health and #education. Henry is deprived of his liberty in the Támara penitentiary.”
PBI-Honduras also posted on December 14, 2019, that Acevedo had “obtain[ed] his letter of freedom with alternative measures after four months in preventive detention.”
The Marco Aurelio Soto prison was designed to hold 8,000 prisoners, but was reportedly holding 17,000 prisoners in 2017.
DefensoresEnLinea.com now reports: “The defense of the young man, made up of the legal representatives of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), Karol Cárdenas and Cynthia Turcios, rejected the charges, stating that it would be in the present trial that the non-participation of their client in the event will be proven, as well as that the elements of the criminal type are not configured.”
The article further notes: “The trial will continue on Friday [January] 26, where the evacuation of the evidence will continue and the conclusions of the parties will end.”
We continue to follow this.