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Jun 27, 2016

Santa Cruz 13 Freed of All Charges

After a year of numerous court appearances, the Santa Cruz Thirteen has been freed of all charges stemming from the unlawful arrest of Rupert Myles.  This morning, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn Vidal withdrew charges against the villagers, stating that there is, “no intention to lay charges against the accused in the future.” In the wake of the announcement, the Maya Leaders Alliance has issued a release commending the D.P.P. for acknowledging the absence of guilt in the matter.  In June 2015, Rupert Myles was bound and paraded through Santa Cruz Village by a group of residents after allegedly disrupting a public meeting.  A few days later, police would descend on the village in a predawn sweep which resulted in the arrest of thirteen persons, including MLA spokesperson Cristina Coc.  It is the first time that Coc has spoken on the matter since being arrested in Punta Gorda Town.  News Five spoke with Coc by phone earlier today.

 

Cristina Coc

On the Phone: Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, MLA

“Well as you would appreciate it’s been a little over a year since thirteen Maya leaders were wrongfully accuse of the crime of common assault, aggravated assault against Rupert Myles in the Santa Cruz Thirteen case. Today, the D.P.P. rose to inform the court that she is discontinuing all charges against the defendants because it wasn’t in the interest of justice to continue. All along, the Maya community had stood behind the Santa Cruz Thirteen to say that there is no case of them to answer to. This clearly is a situation whereby the community was being politically prosecuted and as we anticipated, the crown was unable to provide any evidence at all to substantiate their claim that the Santa Cruz Thirteen had did any kind of criminal act. And so of course we are pleased with that decision; we are happy that the state has come to this reasonable conclusion and we are happy and we congratulate them for recognizing that all along Maya communities have been right in saying that they acted in the defense of their own safety, but also in the defense of their customary practices and their rights in the community.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now you were among the Santa Cruz Thirteen and this is the first time you are being able to comment on the matter openly. In terms of what has transpired since then…I know that it was quite a spectacle when you guys were paraded from the holding cell to the magistrate’s court in Punta Gorda and the tension that that created. Could you bring us up to speed?”

 

On the Phone: Cristina Coc

“Definitely, it wasn’t just the day that we were paraded to the court, humiliated and our character and reputation was called into question; it is over the last year. As community members, to have such strong represent for justice; we have had this hanging over our heads, specifically for myself. We’ve lost a lot of time, we’ve obviously been in many instances victimized and in some instances specifically, the very charge that was brought against us—that we were being accused of—was actually a matter of criminal assault that we had to endure and suffer at the hands of the authorities when they raided our homes. In addition to all of that, we have long concluded and we’ve always maintained that this situation was orchestrated and it was politically motivated and clearly our people have stood together despite all odds. The situation was a situation that showed that the state is willing to place one group against another and to divide a very unified Belize and that was a very sad day in the history of Belize. But today at least we can say that we are very happy that for us, all Belizeans, it is our duty and our responsibility to guard the unity that we have as a Belizean community and to hold and preserve our respect for each other. And so it is an indication for Maya communities who endured much through this process, but who have also shown their willingness to be a peaceful and humble people. And today we celebrate.”

 

The MLA release says that the case was always an issue about the constitutional rights of poor people in Belize and whether or not officials would respect the rule of law.

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1 Response for “Santa Cruz 13 Freed of All Charges”

  1. CEO says:

    Happy for you!

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