Human Lives Human Rights: After more than four years of imprisonment, Bernardo Caal Xol was recently released from the penitentiary centre in Cobán. His release was ordered for his good behavior, the defender’s lawyers said.
Bernardo, even after his release remains convicted of a crime he did not commit and thus the Guatemalan authorities continue to criminalize him for his work in defence of human rights and the environment.
There was no evidence of the crimes he was accused of after reviewing his case. The proceedings against him show similar patterns of criminalization that the organization has documented against other human rights defenders in Guatemala.
Therefore, Bernardo Caal Xol is considered as a prisoner of conscience and has been campaigning globally for years for his immediate and unconditional release.
It’s regrettable that in Guatemala unfounded criminal prosecutions aimed at harassing and obstructing the work of human rights defenders – particularly environmentalists and Indigenous people, and those who fight against impunity and corruption – are such a common tactic.
The people of Guatemala have suffered an unprecedented regression in human rights in recent years. The authorities have tried to dismantle the justice system and the social fabric, criminalizing everyone who fights for a more just and dignified country,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Who is Bernardo Caal Xol?
Bernardo Caal Xol is a 50-year-old indigenous teacher, trade unionist and defender of the rights of the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ people and of land, territorial and environmental rights, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 30 January 2018 for defending the rights of the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities affected by the construction of a hydroelectric project on the sacred Cahabón river, in the department of Alta Verapaz, northern Guatemala.
Despite the lack of factual evidence to support the charges, on 9 November 2018, the court in Cobán sentenced him to 7 years and 4 months in prison for the crimes of aggravated robbery and aggravated illegal detention.