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Honduras denies murdered activist was on army ‘hit list’

June 22, 2016

Honduran authorities on Wednesday denied a British newspaper report alleging their military had issued orders to kill a high-profile environmental activist who was murdered at her home in March.

The article by The Guardian quoted a source identified as a former soldier who said the activist, Berta Caceres, was on a “hit list” given to two elite military units.

“I’m 100 percent certain Berta Caceres was killed by the army,” the source, a 20-year-old ex-first sergeant who spoke under a pseudonym, said, according to The Guardian.

He was quoted saying that he fled to a neighboring country but that several members of his former unit have disappeared and were feared dead.

Honduras’ defense minister, Samuel Reyes, rejected the accusation.

“This story contains utterly false elements that seek to damage the image of Honduras’ government and our armed forces,” he said.

He said the military police battalion the source was reported to have been in did not exist, and that a training course that included US advisers he was said to been on accepted only higher-ranking soldiers.

Reyes said Honduras was demanding The Guardian “correct” its report and noted that suspected murderers of Caceres had been caught and were in custody.

Five people were arrested last month in connection with the murder.

One of the detained suspects is a discharged soldier.

Another is a high-ranking employee of Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA) — an electricity company involved in the construction of a hydro-electric dam against which Caceres had campaigned.

Two masked gunmen fatally shot Caceres, a 45-year-old activist for indigenous, environmental and social issues, at her home in La Esperanza, northwest of the capital Tegucigalpa on March 3.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.