Original article written in Spanish by Nelton Rivera for Prensa Comunitaria. Read the original article here. Translation by NISGUA.
By Nelton Rivera
“We will continue to defend life. We will give our lives if necessary, but we won’t do it kneeling down… Where does water – life – come from? [It comes from] the trees, the mountains. We will continue defending life, regardless of their accusations.” – Rigoberto Juárez
After 11 months of being held in pre-trial detention, Judge Claudette Domínguez – president of Guatemala City’s High-Risk Crimes Court “A” – finally sent to trial Rigoberto Juárez Mateo and Domingo Baltazar, charged with instigating criminal activity.
Both ancestral authorities were detained in March 2015, on their way to participate in a public event in Guatemala City. They are accused of committing crimes against the Public Prosecutor’s office, allegedly participating in the forced closing of the Administrative Center of Justice (CAJ – acronym in Spanish) of Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, on January 19, 2015.
Rigoberto Juárez Mateo, in his role as an ancestral authority, was called by the community to play the role of mediator on January 19, 2015 after representatives from different municipalities in northern Huehuetenango peacefully went to the CAJ to solicit information about the whereabouts of two community youth from San Mateo Ixtatán who had been arbitrarily detained in the community of Pojom.
Despite accusations made by the public prosecutor, Domingo Baltazar was in an accident and as a result, was not present at the CAJ that day.
For two days, the Public Prosecutor, plaintiff organizations, defense lawyers and ancestral authorities presented evidence in the case against Rigoberto and Domingo. Judge Claudette Domínguez ruled that there was sufficient evidence to send the case to trial in March 2016; however, she rejected the motion presented by the Public Prosecutor’s office to expand the accusation to include the crime of kidnapping.
Rigoberto Juárez Mateo and Domingo Baltazar will continue to be held at the Zone 18 Preventative Prison for Men in a legal case that both consider to be unjust and based on political persecution for their roles as ancestral and community authorities in Santa Eulalia and throughout the Q’anjob’al territory.