Urgent Action Alert!

May 23-The letter below was sent to the Nicaraguan Network Organization based in Washington, DC from the wife of the late Francisco Garcia and attorney for the rights of the Indigenous people on the Caribbean coast of Nicaraguan (Maria Luisa Acosta). A copy of this letter was sent to Bluefieldspulse for publication. 

From the Nicaragua Network, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and Quest for Peace

We have received the following information from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) in Managua and from Maria Luisa Acosta of CALPI.

 May 15, 2002

On April 8th, in Bluefields in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, Francisco Garcia was murdered.  He was President of the Chamber of Commerce of Bluefields, professor of chemistry at a local university, and husband of Maria Luisa Acosta, human rights lawyer and Coordinator of the Center for Legal Assistance for Indigenous Peoples (CALPI).  As the director of CALPI, Acosta carried the case of the Mayagna people of Awas Tingi to a successful conclusion in the Inter-American Human Rights Court in Costa Rica. 

 She is handling the case of the Miskito people in their battle to stop U.S. citizen Peter Tsokos from selling their Pearl Cays on his "tropical-islands.com" web site and has supported the efforts of the Rama of Monkey Point to have a say in the feasibility studies for the so-called "dry canal" which would go through their territory.  Besides this, she has worked with the shrimp divers in their struggle to get better wages and conditions from the fishery companies in Bluefields.  Acosta occasionally received threats to her physical safety in the past because of her work.

When Acosta gave her deposition before Julio Acuña, Criminal Judge of the District of Bluefields, she expressed her suspicions that the true intention of the murderers was to kill her, but when they encountered her husband, they killed him.  She named as material authors of the crime Ivan Argüello, one of the renters to whom she and her husband had leased an apartment in   their house, and as intellectual authors of the crime, Peter Tsokos and his lawyer Peter Martinez.  The judge then called Tsokos and his lawyer Peter Martinez to give statements.

In his declaration before the judge, Peter Martinez asserted that Acosta was giving false declarations to the judge in order to put the court on the wrong track and cover up the true authors of the crime.  The judge listened to these accusations and drew up a charge against Acosta, calling her in to give another declaration as a possible accessory, covering up for the murderer of her husband.

After the murder, Acosta had moved to Chinandega in the northwest part of Nicaragua for reasons of security.  Although Judge Acuña knew this, and could have asked the Criminal Court judge of Chinandega to take Acosta's testimony in Chinandega, he instead insisted that she come to his office in Bluefields.  When she did not appear immediately, he issued a warrant for  her arrest as possibly complicit in a cover-up of her husband's murder.

The judge violated her guarantees of due process, access to justice, and the right to defense, especially since she attempted to give power of attorney to another to present her testimony and was not allowed to do so.

On May 16th Maria Luisa Acosta sent out an update on the legal case.  It contained good news and bad news.  First Judge Acuña issued an arrest warrant for Ivan Arguello, one of the three men who are believed to have actually carried out the murder of her husband, as well as for the other two as yet unidentified members of the group.  Second, the case against her has been definitively dropped.  But the bad news is that any case against Peter Tsokos and his lawyer Peter Martinez has been dropped by the judge as well.

And worst of all, Peter Tsokos was able to get a civil judge in Bluefields to put a lien on Acosta's house for US$100,000 for supposed damages plus 30% for supposed legal costs.  Acosta says that she has never had any dealings with Tsokos.

CENIDH considers that Maria Luisa Acosta is a victim of persecution and harassment by Peter Tsokos and Peter Martinez who are trying to get her to end her fight to clear up the murder of her husband and to end her legal support for the indigenous peoples' land rights struggle.

Therefore, CENIDH has identified the following targets and the Nicaragua Network, Pastors for Peace and Quest for Peace request that you send letters to:

1. The President of the Supreme Court, Ivan Escobar, asking him to guarantee Maria Luisa Acosta's safety and to do everything possible to speed the resolution of the case of the death of her husband, bringing the murderer(s) to justice.  Ask him to investigate the behavior of Judge Julio Acuña of the Bluefields Criminal Court, who violated Acosta's rights as a bereaved victim of a crime.

2. The Minister of Governance, Arturo Harding, urging him to ask the National Police to implement all necessary measures to insure police protection for Acosta as well as to ensure that she can continue her work as a defender of the rights of the indigenous people of the Atlantic Coast.

3. To the President of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolaños, urging him to ensure that all measures required by the Declaration of the United Nations of December 9, 1998, on the protection of those persons and organizations who work to promote human rights, be put in place in support of Acosta. Ask him to enforce the Nicaraguan Constitution and the Autonomy Statute which protect the rights of Nicaragua's indigenous peoples to their traditional lands against the claims of land grabbers.

Addresses:

Dr. Ivan Escobar Fornos
Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia
Managua, Nicaragua
Fax: 011-505-233-0183

Ing. Arturo Harding
Ministro de Gobernacion
Managua, Nicaragua
Fax: 011-505-222-7778

Ing. Enrique Bolanos Geyer
President de la Republica de Nicaragua
Managua, Nicaragua
Fax: 011-505-228-9298

[For more information, contact Katherine Hoyt at the Nicaragua Network,
202-544-9355 or nicanet@afgj.org]

The Nicaragua Network web page is www.nicanet.org.


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