Yesterday (Thursday), part of our delegation traveled to the department of Olancho, where we met with David Murillo, the father of a young boy, Isis Obed Murillo Mencias, who was shot in the head at the airport the day President Zelaya tried to return to the country in a plane. We visited David in the central penitentiary located outside of the rural town of Juticalpa.
When we arrived his 24 year old daughter was waiting outside with food for him. She had come three hours’ journey from Tegucigalpa, leaving her children to bring food to her father. It was not a visiting day, but because we were ‘special guests’, they allowed us to visit with him.
Murillo is 57 years old. When we first went in, he seemed very sad, and not terribly interested in seeing us. By the time we left, he had become animated, telling us many stories about his struggles. He said that he cries because he can hear what is happening in his country right now but he is unable to do anything about it from his prison cell. He said about President Zelaya “I have never seen a President like this. He has broken the walls behind which the people were held.” When he was asked about Zelaya’s father, who had a reputation for being a brutal with peasants in the region, he said that Zelaya took after his mother, who had a noble heart.
Murillo is one of the first spokespersons for the Environmental movement of Olancho, and believes he’s in prison because he was a strong voice against unjust government policies that powerful sectors would rather see silent.
After his son was killed in an anti-coup protest, Murillo went to COFADEH, a prominent Honduran human rights organization, to denounce the murder. Upon leaving the office, he spoke briefly with the press, and then on his way home he was picked up by a white car with tinted windows and no license plates. A neighbor witnessed his kidnapping.
Later that day Murillo appeared on the list of those detained at the police station. He hadn’t been allowed to make phone calls.
Murillo describes what happened at the police station. The police took out a blank piece of paper, placed a gun on the table, and coerced him to sign the blank piece of paper. Then a woman in a ski mask in the room typed on the paper. The paper said he admitted to having killed three people and to having raped a woman. He was then escorted outside, where press were waiting. They published everywhere the news that he had admitted to these crimes, attempting to in some way justify the killing of his son because his father was supposedly a criminal. In actually he had been an evangelical minister for many years.
Murillo is a long time environmental activist with the Environmental Movement of Olancho, working against deforestation and water privatization in the region. He said that the original charges had been brought as a way to punish him for his activism.
The 14,000 Lempiras (less than $750 USD) which Murillo had saved when he was captured are nearly gone, as his family lives in Tegucigalpa and needs to travel to bring him food.
The rest of our delegation stayed back at the Human Rights organization COFADEH, where we composed a letter to the Attorney General of Honduras, which asks for explanations as to what work they have done to investigate the multitude of serious human rights violations have happened since the coup.
While we were at COFADEH, yesterday’s march in Tegucigalpa against the coup moved through the streets. The march of thousands started out at the US Embassy and ended in the Central park. The march was huge, stretching out block after block.
Meanwhile, thousands of people from throughout the country are making their way on foot to the cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa as part of 7 day National March against the coup. Marchers will arrive in these two cities on Tuesday, August 11th.
Today (Friday) we will present the letter regarding human rights violations to U.S. Ambassador Llorens, followed by a press conference and then deliver the letter to the Attorney General’s office. We will have lunch with a delegation of international unions, who will take the letter to the Spanish Embassy in the afternoon. Stay tuned to hear what Ambassador Llorens has to say.