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Former dam executive found guilty in the killing of Berta Cáceres

A mural of murdered activists Berta Cáceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo by disoniador via Pixabay.

A mural of murdered activists Berta Cáceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo by disoniador via Pixabay.

  • The alleged ringleader of the 2016 killing of environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was convicted of murder by a Honduran court on Monday.
  • Roberto David Castillo Mejía, the ex-head of the dam company Desa, was found guilty of participating in the assassination of Cáceres. The court decision was unanimous.
  • Cáceres was gunned down in her home on March 2, 2016 at the age of 44 after leading opposition to the Agua Zarca dam on the Rio Galcarque, a river that holds spiritual significance for the Lenca people.
  • Cáceres was recognized for her activism in 2015 when she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

The alleged mastermind of the 2016 killing of environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was convicted of homicide by a Honduran court on Monday.

Roberto David Castillo Mejía, the former head of the hydropower company Desarrollos Energéticos (Desa) and an ex-army intelligence officer, was found guilty of participating in the assassination of Cáceres. The court decision, reached after a 49-day trial, was unanimous.

Cáceres was gunned down in her home on March 2, 2016 at the age of 44 after leading opposition to the Agua Zarca dam, which was to be built on the Rio Galcarque, a river that is sacred to the local Lenca people. Cáceres — herself Lenca — was the co-founder the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

Cáceres was recognized for her activism against the dam in 2015 when she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Her subsequent murder shocked the world and led to the suspension of the Agua Zarca dam.

Berta Caceres at the banks of the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras. Photo credit: The Goldman Prize.

Castillo Mejía is the eighth person to be convicted in the murder. According to the Associated Press, seven men were sentenced to prison in December 2019 for their role in the assassination, receiving terms ranging from 30 to 50 years.

Castillo Mejía is set to be sentenced in August and is expected to receive 24 to 30 years for allegedly financing the hit and providing support to the hitmen, according to prosecutors.

David Castillo Mejía, the hydroelectric company executive arrested for orchestrating the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, in the custody of Honduran authorities in 2018. Photo credit: the Attorney General’s office of the Republic of Honduras.

Cáceres murder was documented in detail in Blood River, a podcast released in 2020.

Header image: A mural of murdered activists Berta Cáceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo by disoniador via Pixabay.