“The 7 year judicial nightmare is over!!”
These were the words today of Greg McCain, a human rights observer who was living in Chicago when he decided over three years ago to move to the Aguan Valley of Honduras to accompany Isabel “Chabelo” Morales Rosales and to report on the human rights crisis in the region.
“This is a major victory in the fight for justice for the social movements in Honduras,” continued McCain.
“Chabelo”, as Morales is affectionately called by those throughout the country has been in prison for the past seven years convicted of second degree murder which entire communities said that he didn’t commit. Today he was found not guilty after having spent seven years in prison for the charge of second-degree murder. This was his third trial for the same charge but this time the case was litigated by a higher court.
KGNU first reported on the case of Isabel Morales Rosales five years ago from the Granja Prison in the Bajo Aguan region of northern Honduras where he was being held. That day an international human rights delegation was investigating why he was imprisoned despite his not having been tried nor sentenced, a move that contradicted Honduran law assuring a speedy trial.
Since then, multiple human rights delegations, defenders, and organizations have been working for his release. Their work involved campaigns of accompaniment, letter writing, phone calls, financial support, and physical presence during his subsequent multiple trials. There has been international support for him coming from as far away as Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Italy, Nicaragua, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.
International pressure began after delegations met with him and after national and international exposure regarding the case started to take course. This outside exposure was paramount to receiving accurate information, a challenge in a country where most media sources are owned by the same oligarchy that stands to gain from the land grabs that are permeating the country.
An attempted land grab by a rich and powerful landowner was what began the 7-year long battle for the freedom of Chabelo Morales. His case is symbolic of the systematic criminalization of an entire movement and an entire people. The intricacies of the legal proceedings that have not followed Honduran law or the failure to carry out higher court rulings have signified the lack of a functioning judicial system and what some have described as a “judicial system that works only for those in power.”
KGNU has reported from his legal proceedings since his second trial after first meeting him. We have documented the struggle of his family trying to fight this case on limited financial resources. They have stood by him making regular trips to the prison, and demonstrating their sentiments for supporters by providing entire meals for the groups that show up to his trials, and by hosting international supporters in their modest home in the tiny village of Guadalupe Carney.
News of his acquittal rocked the nation that has supported him from all corners of the country. Indeed international corners were rocking as well. Seven years of marches, actions, sit-ins, sign making, and waiting outside of courthouses in blistering heat rewarded those who despite earning only pennies per day, saw their way to whatever location was necessary to show their support and to fight a broken system of discrimination, prejudice, corruption and unequal and selective enforcement of the law.
Today’s ruling has been a major milestone in the history of Honduras.
The Early Morning News staff
(KGNU photos from his January 2014 trial in Ceiba, Honduras. At that trial he was found guilty by the same judges who tried his first case despite no evidence placing him in the location of a 2008 shootout and despite multiple witnesses who placed him at a field far away.)