Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Prosecutor seeks charges against Honduran soldiers

COSMETIC? The Supreme Court was asked to charge top officers for their role in rousting Manuel Zelaya from his home and bundling him off to Costa Rica

AP , TEGUCIGALPA

The chief prosecutor asked Honduras’ Supreme Court on Wednesday to issue arrest warrants charging military commanders with abuse of power for sending then-­president Manuel Zelaya out of the country in his June 28 ouster.

The court will have three days to decide whether to grant the request from prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi. It would be the first legal action taken against the armed forces since soldiers rousted Zelaya out of his home at gunpoint and forced him aboard a flight to Costa Rica.

The measure could be largely cosmetic. The high court has repeatedly ruled or advised against reinstating Zelaya as president.

It has also said he faces charges of treason and abuse of power, in large part for disobeying court orders to drop a plan to hold a referendum on changing the constitution.

Moreover, Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo, who won the Nov. 29 election to succeed Zelaya, has said he supports granting amnesty to Zelaya and to all of those involved in the coup.

Zelaya’s critics say he was removed because of his defiance of the court orders against the constitutional referendum. Zelaya says he was ousted because he was trying to bring more equality to this poor Central American nation.

If the Supreme Court agreed to charge the military officers, their case would be heard by one of the court’s 15 magistrates.

Those named by the ­prosecutor include the head of the armed forces, General Romeo Vasquez, and five other top-ranking military officers, including air force chief General Javier Prince and navy commander General Juan Pablo Rodriguez. The charge carries possible prison terms of three to four years.

“We have not received any legal notification, but we are prepared to defend ourselves in court,” Rodriguez told reporters.

Zelaya took refuge in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into Honduras on Sept. 21.

Also on Wednesday, interim Honduran president Roberto Micheletti responded harshly to US suggestions that he resign before Lobo takes office on Jan 27. Micheletti has been serving as president since Zelaya was deposed.

“The US wants me to withdraw on Jan. 15. Washington should respect the sovereign decisions of our people,” Micheletti said, calling Washington’s diplomacy erratic.

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