TEGUCIGALPA – Honduran attorney Antonio Trejo, who represented peasants who have attempted to reclaim land in the Caribbean province of Colon, was murdered by unknown killers in Tegucigalpa, a human rights group announced Sunday.
Trejo was the legal adviser to the MARCA land reclamation movement and was shot to death Saturday night near the Toncontin International Airport, the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh, said.
According to the versions of the murder published in the local media, Trejo attended a wedding on Saturday night in the southern capital neighborhood of America near the airport and when he left the noisy venue to answer a cell phone call he had received he was riddled with bullets by gunmen waiting outside.
Trejo was taken to the state-run Escuela Hospital, where he died, the Cofadeh report added.
The attorney was brought to trial by the Public Ministry in August after a peasant demonstration in the capital in which the protesters, some of them from MARCA, were demanding land.
The protest was broken up by the National Police and several of the demonstrators were injured in the melee.
Trejo, Confadeh said, “played a significant role in the defense of the right to land by peasant cooperatives affiliated with MARCA: San Isidro, Despertar, San Esteban and La Trinidad.”
The attorney presented “legal motions for several years until he got a civil judge to issue a ruling that returned the lands to the peasants on June 29 of this year, 18 years after they were taken from them by landowners Miguel Facusse and Rene Morales,” Cofadeh said.
However, according to the humanitarian organization, during a Supreme Court recess, the landowners had their lawyers introduce a motion that was resolved in an illegal manner to benefit them.
On July 18, Trejo said at a press conference at Cofadeh headquarters that the landowners were influence peddling in the courts to reverse a ruling returning the lands to the MARCA peasants.
In Bajo Aguan, one of the most fertile areas of Honduras, groups of peasants are demanding land from the government. It is a tense region with frequent armed clashes between laborers and security guards working for local landowners and over the past three years more than 60 people have been killed.
The violence has not fallen off despite the fact that the government signed an agreement with the landholders to buy more than 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres), some of it cultivated with African palm, from which palm oil is extracted, to return to the peasants.
Honduran authorities say that the clashes that continue to occur in the region are being provoked by armed criminal bands who say they are peasants.
Other groups of laborers who are demanding land are affiliated with the Unified Movement of Peasants of Aguan, or MUCA.