Ex-Dam Company Boss Convicted in Activist Berta Caceres' Murder

Roberto David Castillo Mejía masterminded the slaying
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2021 12:11 AM CDT
Ex-Dam Company Boss Convicted in Activist's Slaying
Flyers with the image of slain Honduran environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres and calling for justice, lay on the ground during a protest on the day of the trial against Roberto David Castillo Mejia in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Monday, July 5, 2021.   (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)

A Honduran man was convicted of homicide Monday in the 2016 killing of Berta Cáceres, a prize-winning environmental and Indigenous rights defender. After a three-month trial, the court unanimously found Roberto David Castillo Mejía guilty of participating in the killing of Cáceres, a member of the Lenca Indigenous group who led opposition to a dam project in which Castillo Mejía was involved. The court will convene on Aug. 2 to determine a sentence, which could be between 24 and 30 years, the AP reports. Castillo Mejía, who prosecutors say masterminded the killing, will remain jailed at an army base until sentencing. He has denied wrongdoing. The dam project remains frozen. Cáceres had been threatened for years over her opposition to it, the BBC reports. It had caused years of delays and financial losses for the dam company, which Castillo Mejía used to head, the Guardian reports.

Cáceres was a co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. She helped organize opposition to the Agua Zarca dam project, which was to be built on the Galcarque River. The river holds spiritual importance for the Lenca people as well as being a critical source of water. She was slain at her home in La Esperanza on March 3, 2016. In December 2019, seven men were sentenced to prison for Cáceres’ murder. Four men were sentenced to 34 years for the murder and 16 years for attempted murder. Three others received sentences of 30 years for their roles. At the time, prosecutors said the killers acted on behalf of a company, Desa, that was building the dam. Castillo Mejía was arrested in 2018. Castillo Mejía allegedly paid the hitmen, gave logistical support, and provided resources to those already convicted, according to prosecutors. (More Honduras stories.)

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