PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH law firm at sentencing of Poqomchí land defender Sofia Tot Ac for “usurpation”

Published by Brent Patterson on

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PBI-Guatemala has posted on Facebook:

“On Tuesday and Wednesday [March 19-20] PBI accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) to the hearing of the resolution of the accusation in the Sofía Case, in Cabón (Alta Verapaz). The judge in his sentence resolved that the Poqomchí defender has been an accomplice in the usurpation of protected areas and had an advantage promoted by such occupation, sentencing her to 3 years and 4 four months in prison commutable to Q5 per day, in addition to the payment of a fine of Q2,600.67.

The BDH lawyers consider that the sentence shows contradictions and inconsistencies. The full sentence is expected to be read on April 1.”

On March 18, just prior to Sofia’s sentencing, US Senator Ed Markey tweeted: “Sofia Tot Ac has long worked to protect the rights of Indigenous people and the environment in Guatemala. I am deeply concerned by her prosecution designed to intimidate human rights defenders and I call on the judge to issue a fair verdict.”

Commenting on her sentencing, the Guatemala Solidarity Project notes:

The Guatemala Solidarity Project has also previously explained:

And we previously noted:

Ruda has explained that Sofía Tot, defender and indigenous authority of Purulhá, Baja Verapaz, is accused of aggravated usurpation.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, has written that “usurpation” is when “Indigenous peoples become [are charged with being] trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands.”

ActionAid adds that Tot belongs to the resistance movement for the recovery of the ancestral land of the Mayan Poqomchi people.

They further note: “The activist has always worked in defense of the Sierra de las Minas, affected by mineral extraction concessions. This is despite the fact that 52% of this territory is tropical rainforest. Today, it is heavily affected by deforestation and the pollution of its rivers. According to official information, she is accused of the crime of ‘usurpation of a protected natural area’. Specifically, they point out that by accessing an area where the emblematic quetzal bird lives.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) since 2013.

Photo: Sofía Tot, defender and Indigenous authority of Purulhá, Baja Verapaz. Photo by Rony Morales.

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