MUCA Journalist Karla Zelaya Kidnapped for Hours

From Witness For Peace:
This is a translation of COFADEH's article on the kidnapping yesterday of Karla Zelaya. Here's a link to the original article on Defensores en Línea.

MUCA Journalist Karla Zelaya Kidnapped for Hours
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 22:11 Dina Meza

After almost a month of threats, Karla Zelaya, a journalist of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), was kidnapped for some three hours on Tuesday morning October 23 by three well-built men who had the appearance of military or police officers, according to what the victim reported to COFADEH.

On September 27 Zelaya received various threatening messages telling her to keep quiet. See more information here. She is in charge of communication at MUCA and Amnesty International launched an urgent action to protect her after she reported the threats. Link to AI urgent action.

On September 21 when 28 campesinos from the Aguán were detained, the police hit Karla various times and took her photograph at the Barrio Belén post with orders from the chief of Metropolitan Police Number One, who broke a resolution that should have freed the detained, but instead took them to an unknown location. The officer also beat other human rights defenders on that date.

Kidnapping, Torture and Threats

“This time you’re lucky. We’re not going to kill you because you’re worth more to us alive than dead,” the unknown men told Karla Zelaya, after they had grabbed her at a bus stop and told her to “shut up and walk.” They put her in a grey tourism vehicle which she didn’t leave until three hours later when they threw her out near the center of town and warned that next time she wouldn’t be so lucky-that they already knew where she lived, where her family lived, and all of her movements within MUCA.

Sunday night, October 21, after uploading various photos relating to repression against the campesino movement on September 20 and 21, just as what occurred before the murder of Antonio Trejo, Karla Zelaya began receiving new threats.

“You’re tiring me don’t be afraid to die bitch, I’m going to kill you,” “Look, don’t get involved with what doesn’t matter to you because you already know what happens to people who get involved, bitch, they’re going to find you covered in flies,” said two of the four threatening messages she received before the kidnapping.

They put her in the vehicle between the two men who’d taken her from the bus station, while the driver never said a word. Once in the car she asked who they were. “You’re Karla,” they said. “Cooperate. We won’t do anything to you; we just want you to give us the names of the leaders of MUCA. Is it true that Jhony is the head of MUCA?”

The young woman reported that the men were young but they warned her not to look at their faces, after which they covered themselves with hoods and blindfolded her with a black rag. Then they started the torture and intensive interrogation. “Only with killing the leaders will this movement end,” they told her while they stabbed her breasts and stomach with a sharp object.

Still with the trauma of feeling her life was hanging by a thread, she related, the men warned her that they knew all her routines, and in her defense she told them that all she did was work for MUCA. They told her, “But you open your mouth too much, and we’ve warned you through messages and you haven’t paid attention, so today is your day, we aren’t going to kill you because you are worth more alive than dead. Who pays you?”

“ ‘This idiot doesn’t want to cooperate.’ I no longer knew where I was and one said to the other. ‘Hey man, what do you say? Do we kill her or not?’ The other one said, ‘No man, don’t do that, she’s worth more to us alive than dead.’ I lost the track of the time. At the end they told me, ‘At any moment we’re going to look for you and you’re going to give us the information we need,’ she reported with tears in her eyes.”

COFADEH presented a report on the first threats to the Public Prosecutor and solicited a swift and efficient investigation. At the same COFADEH provided the cell phone numbers the threats were sent from, however there still have been no results.

They can kill us if they want, but the people are fighting

Jhony Rivas and Vitalino Álvarez, leaders of MUCA, reported that this is the atmosphere they live in while agreements to pay the bank for the campesino's lands are being signed, but in the end the money will go to Miguel Facussé.

They gave all the responsibility of these actions to Facussé and pointed out that this is a policy of terror with the objective well defined: to crush the just struggle for land that thousands of families face in the Aguán region.

Even though the climate of terror is meant to crush their leadership and the death threats can become real at any moment, Álvarez and Rivas announced that they are not fearful and that they are not the only ones fighting this struggle, but are joined by an entire community reclaiming land, and they prefer to die in Honduras rather than leave for the United States.

This new act of violence happened after two more campesinos were killed over the weekend and three more were found buried in Farallones, lands belonging to Miguel Facussé. Even though attorneys found evidence that a crime happened, they haven’t brought it to trial. They ask why they haven’t and why instead when campesinos protest to reclaim their lands they are beaten and tried in front of courts of justice.

These two leaders and 23 more people where accused by the Public Prosecutor of Illegal Carrying of Arms, Illicit Protesting and Damages, and as a substitute for serving time in prison have been ordered to present themselves every Friday to the judges of Tocoa, Colón.

Witness for Peace Honduras Team
Acción Permanente Por la Paz