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Honduran peasant freed after being unjustly prosecuted

What is the relationship between “green” energy and a peasant in jail? The answer lies at the heart of the struggle for resources rights, as the demand for land to produce agro-fuels for markets in the Global North generate land conflicts, rampant persecution and even deaths in peasant communities in the Global South.

Here is an example from Honduras.   The growing interest on “green” energy projects in Aguan region has generated a land conflict between a peasant community and a local oligarchy which resulted in the death of 10 people. The conflict started when the local oligarchy, led by Osorto family, wanted the peasants out, as land prices skyrocketed with the prospect of new palm oil plantations.   Thirty-two peasants faced arrest warrants based on different legal charges, including killing Osorto family members and hired security guards in a shooting between the two groups in 2008. Not too long after, two peasant leaders of the Peasant Movement of Aguan (MCA) – Carlos Maradiaga and Isabel Morales – were arrested on several charges, including murder, gang formation and weapon possession.   After several months in jail, Carlos and Isabel went to trial last week. The charges against them could reach a sentence of 350 years in prison. Today, we received the news that Carlos was acquitted of all charges. Although Carlos has been set free, Isabel was sentenced to jail for murder.   The MCA and the Via Campesina noted that Carlos and Isabel were accused of the same crimes, and it is unreasonable that Isabel still has to pay for a crime that he didn’t commit. Local allies claim that the ruling demonstrates that the judgment was prejudiced by pressure from local oligarchy.   Grassroots International awarded a small grant to the MCA, a member of Via Campesina-Honduras, to pay for the legal defense. With our support, MCA hired a lawyer that successfully made a stronger case before the local court helping Carlos to reunite with his family and community. With Isabel still in jail, peasant organizations will reach out to others in Honduras and abroad about his case. They will need support to bring Isabel Morales home, as well as to make sure that Carlos remains safe. We will keep you posted with updates on the situation.   Although big agro-fuel companies hope their promises of “green” energy will obscure the truth, Carlos and Isabel’s community has the right to land, water and peace. Please help us to make that happen – consider making a donation to Grassroots International.