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Mar 30, 2016

Charges Withdrawn from 2 of the Santa Cruz Thirteen

Pablo Mis

This morning, ten months after their arrests, the Santa Cruz Thirteen were back in court.  A police raid in the early hours of June twenty-fourth of last year, resulted in the arrest of twelve villagers from the southern community of Santa Cruz and MLA Spokesperson Cristina Coc.  A number of officers descended on the homes of these leaders and took them into custody in Punta Gorda Town where they were later charged with unlawful imprisonment.  The charges arise from an incident during which the villagers reportedly defended a sacred site from being defiled by Rupert Myles.  While the initial charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence, the additional charges, including common and aggravated assault were levied against the villagers. During today’s session, a motion for the dismissal of charges against two of the accused persons was carried through on the basis that there was insufficient proof. It means that eleven leaders will continue to face charges.

 

On the Phone: Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, MLA

“Today, the case of the Santa Cruz Thirteen commenced trial.  This is about ten months after the arrest of thirteen village leaders when on June twenty-fourth, 2015, police raided the homes of those villagers and arrested twelve leaders.  Today, preliminary matters were dealt with where the Director of Public Prosecutions conceded again that there was not sufficient evidence to continue sustaining a charge against two of the Santa Cruz Thirteen villagers.  So the charges against two of them were dropped.  This, you will recall, is a change to the position of the Crown against the Santa Cruz villagers where initially they were all charged with unlawful imprisonment.  That was changed to common assault and added aggravated assault to some of the leaders and today again, the DPP conceded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to continue sustaining a charge against two of the defendants.  This for us is an important step in bringing justice to all the defendants.  They have been sustaining unnecessary hardships and the families have been going through a lot of traumatic experiences as a result of the raid and we hope that the case can proceed on May ninth which is the new day for trial and have all the defendants then before the court justify or achieve the justice that they all deserve.”

 

The case has been adjourned until May ninth.  Meanwhile, the Maya community continues to urge the Government of Belize to respect their rights as indigenous people, including right to customary land tenure.

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