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Guatemala: Amnesty International confirms that Bernardo Caal Xol, indigenous defender and opponent of Oxec hydroelectric plant, is a prisoner of conscience

"Guatemala: Amnesty International declares Bernardo Caal Xol a prisoner of conscience", 16th July 2020

...Bernardo Caal Xol, a Q'eqchi' Maya Indigenous leader and Guatemalan human rights defender, is a prisoner of conscience who has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than two years, Amnesty International said today. 

Since 2015, Bernardo Caal has defended the rights of the communities of Santa María Cahabón, who have been affected by the construction of the OXEC hydroelectric plant on the Oxec and Cahabón rivers in the northern department of Alta Verapaz. He filed a series of injunctions against the project and in 2017 the high courts acknowledged that the right to free, prior, and informed consultation of the Indigenous communities was violated.

In retaliation, Bernardo Caal was accused of carrying out alleged acts of violence against employees of NETZONE SA, an OXEC contractor, on 15 October 2015. On 9 November 2018, a court sentenced him to seven years and four months in prison for the crimes of unlawful detention with aggravating circumstances and aggravated robbery.

“Having reviewed the ongoing criminal proceedings against Bernardo Caal, it’s clear that there’s no evidence of the crimes that he’s accused of. On the contrary, the proceedings against Bernardo show the same patterns of criminalization of human rights defenders that we have documented in the country for years. We therefore declare today that he is a prisoner of conscience, we demand his freedom and we ask that the Attorney General’s Office review his case and investigate the officials who carried out the investigation,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International...