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Cablegate: Charges Filed Against Military for Flying Zelaya

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STATE FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2020
TAGS: PGOV MARR KJUS KDEM HO
SUBJECT: CHARGES FILED AGAINST MILITARY FOR FLYING ZELAYA
OUT OF HONDURAS

Classified By: Ambassador Hugo Llorens for reasons 1.4 (b & d)

1. (SBU) Summary: The Public Ministry filed charges before
the Supreme Court on January 6 against the Armed Forces Chief
of Staff and the Joint Staff for abuse of authority on June
28 for the way they executed an arrest warrant issued against
President Jose Manuel "Mel" Zelaya by forcing him onto a
plane and taking him to Costa Rica. The timing of the
charges is interesting since it occurred just days before the
National Congress is likely to begin consideration of a
decree granting political amnesty to all actors involved in
the events of June 28. End summary.

2. (U) The Public Ministry, which prosecutes criminal cases,
filed charges of abuse of authority on January 6 against the
Armed Forces' Chief of Staff and the Joint Staff. The case
was filed against six individuals: Chief of Staff General
Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, Venancio Cervantes Suazo,
Carlos Antonio Cuellar Castillo, Luis Javier Prince Suazo,
Miguel Angel Garcia Padget, and Juan Pablo Rodriguez
Rodriguez. According to press reports, the charge is that
they abused their authority when on June 28 they executed the
arrest warrant issued by the Supreme Court against President
Jose Manuel "Mel" Zelaya by forcing him onto a plane and
flying him to Costa Rica rather than arresting him and
allowing him to defend himself of the charges against him in
a Honduran court of law. The case was filed by the Attorney
General with the Supreme Court since Article 313 of the
Constitution provides that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction
in cases involving high-level government officials. The
Supreme Court in turn designated its Chief Magistrate and
President Alberto Aviles Rivera to oversee the case.

3. (C) The timing of the charges has raised speculation about
the motive. However, Attorney General Rubi has long been
critical of the military's decision to abort his legal case
against President Zelaya in essence by kidnapping Zelaya from
his home and flying him out on a plane to Costa Rica. Some
say the case was ready weeks ago, but was postponed until
after the November 29 general election in order to prevent
any action that might negatively impact on a smooth electoral
process. The case was filed days before the National
Congress is likely to consider the issue of political amnesty
for all actors in the June 28 coup. The congressional
commission drafting a decree on political amnesty has
reportedly completed its work and the draft decree is
finalized and ready for consideration by the National
Congress as early as the week of January 11. Some say that
the Public Ministry filed the charges to ensure that the
military leadership faces justice despite any political
amnesty approved by the legislature. However, it is
important to note that the Supreme Court, which will hear the
case, played an important role in league with the military in
the coup de'tat of June 28.

4. (SBU) On January 7, General Vasquez to the Ambassador that
he and his colleagues had hired a law firm to defend their
interests. Vasquez also said that the military would respect
the authority of the Public Ministry. However, he expressed
the hope that Congress would pass political amnesty
legislation that covered all of the key actors associated
with the Honduran political crisis and the coup.
LLORENS

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