During the electoral crisis, the Juan Orlando Hernandez government, supported and financed by North American and European governments, has criminalized various protesters and activists in Honduras. Right now, there are 26 political prisoners in Honduras, the majority of whom are being held in maximum security prisons and their families cannot visit them. This is how the Honduran government is punishing people who fight for democracy in Honduras.
Read More: Honduran Elections in Dispute on International Stage as Protests Within the Country Continue
In response to this crisis, different human rights organizations and organizations of international solidarity have called for a “Global Day of Action to Free Honduran Political Prisoners”. The activities surrounding the solidarity campaign begin today Friday, March 16, with a Webinar at 8pm EST about the political prisoner situation in Honduras, the importance of solidarity, and US prison imperialism. Register here.
Monday March 19, is the primary day of action which will involve a twitter storm with the hashtags: #LibertadPresxsPolíticxsHN #FreePoliticalPrisonersHN #FreeEdwinEspinal . Phone calls & e-action directed at the Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office, Supreme Court, and National Penitentiary Institute; US, Canadian, and European governments; and the International Red Cross. As well as mobilizations within Honduras and in different countries.
Read More Members of Civil Society Denounce the Situation of Violence in Honduras to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The campaign’s three demands are:
- Free all political prisoners and drop all charges against them now!
- While in detention, provide emergency medical attention and guarantee adequate food and drinking water for all prisoners.
- Allow unlimited visits to political prisoners from family members and national and international human rights organizations.
Honduras Election Crisis Explained:
On Sunday November 26, Honduras held national, departmental and municipal elections. The elections, were immediately viewed as illegitimate by many social movements and organizations because re-election was illegal in Honduras until the President Juan Orlando Hernández manipulated the Constitutional Court to make an exception in this case. Especially since the mere possibility of opening the discussion on changing the constitution to allow re-election was the primary justification for the coup in 2009.
The primary results showed that the opposition leader Salvador Nasralla had a 5 percent lead with 57 percent of the votes tallied. Surprisingly, after midnight, the country’s election authority Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) stopped posting updates for the next 36 hours. And when the updates resumed, results flipped in the favour of the incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The lead steadily diminished and then disappeared. On December 4, the TSE announced results in which President Juan Orlando Hernandez had narrow victory. Protests raged across the country against the election theft demanding a recount of all the tally sheets received after the TSE shutdown. On 17 December, twenty-one days after the election, TSE, which is dominated by Hernández loyalists declared Hernandez as the official winner.
Honduran people across the country began massive protests as soon as the fraud became evident and mobilized in major cities, highways and communities disrupting for the past three months business as usual. The JOH government launched massive crackdown on the protesters, who were demanding a recount and that JOH step down. At least 40 protesters have been killed and many were put into the jail. Despite allegations of fraud, the United States recognized Hernández as the winner and many other countries and international institutions followed suit.
Edwin Espinal is one of the 26 political prisoners, as of today he has been held in La Tolva maximum security prison for 59 days. Edwin is a long-time Honduran activist and was arrested by police on January 19, on the eve of a week-long nationwide strike. Edwin faces a laundry list of trumped up charges: arson; property damage; and use of homemade explosive material. Edwin is also under State investigation for terrorism and criminal association related to damages to the Marriott Hotel, a multi-billion dollar US chain, during a January 12 protest in Tegucigalpa.
Read More: Honduran Government Threatens Free Speech with Media Gag Bill
Since the US- and Canadian-backed military coup in 2009, Edwin has been a constant target of State repression and harassment. In 2009, Edwin’s partner, Wendy Elizabeth Avila, was killed after excessive exposure to tear gas when State forces violently evicted thousands of protesters gathered at the Brazilian Embassy to welcome ousted President Manuel Zelaya back into the country. In 2010, Edwin was abducted and tortured by Honduran police, who were later acquitted – in the corrupted legal system – on all charges for their abuses.
Read More: Hondurans Continue Their Massive Mobilizations on the Eve of JOH’s Illegitimate Inauguration
Since his arrest on January 19 and subsequent incarceration, Edwin has been subjected to inhumane conditions and treatment, he participated in a hunger strike but had to end it because his health was in danger. Reports on his condition and case can be found here.
Lourdes is another political prisoner. She is a mother of 4 children and is being held in the prison in the northern city of Tela. She is accused of burning a police station in the community of Pimienta. Her brother and her husband are also in the “El Pozo” jail.