On January 8, 2003 Marcelino Miranda and his brother, Leonardo Miranda, indigenous leaders from the Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Indigenas Populares (COPINH), Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations, were arrested by twenty-one armed Policia Nacional officers and a number of armed civilians wearing ski masks. The two men were assaulted and tortured in front of their relatives during the arrest and their relatives were threatened. The two men were taken to the prison in Gracias municipality were the torture continued and they were forced to sign confession papers under extreme duress. [AMR 37/006/2003].
On April 6, 2003 Marcelino was dragged from his cell by three elite Cobra officers from the Policia Nacional. Reportedly, Marcelino was punched in the stomach, hit in the back of the head with the butt of a gun and kicked while on the ground. The officers also reportedly threatened to kill him.
After this assault, Marcelino was instructed to call his brother, Leonardo. Leonardo was then allegedly punched, kicked and instructed to place his hands on the side of the pavement. His fists were then repeatedly hit with a heavy steel pipe. His hands still bared the scars of this attack fifteen days later. [AMR 37/006/2003].
Since February 2003 the Miranda brothers have been represented by Marcelino Martínez Espinal. Between the time he took on the case and September 2003 Espinal had reported being followed on at least three occasions. The most recent, occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. on September 18, 2003. Espinal was followed by a red Toyota with blacked-out windows and no licence plates as he left the Gracias Prison in Lempira department where the brothers are being held. On July 22, 2003 two men, who drove a car without licence plates, had allegedly been asking about Espinal and his car at a hearing of the Miranda brothers’ case. [AMR 37/016/2003].
At approximately 2:45 p.m. on October 16, 2003 Espinal found himself driving behind a beige Toyota pick-up containing four individual while travelling along the road from Santa Rosa de Copán and Gracias. The truck slowed down as Espinal approached. As he tried to pass the truck, it accelerated and pulled up even with his car. The two individuals in the front seat then rolled down the window and shouted, “Acércate más por acá, hijo de la gran puta (Come closer you son of a bitch),” and “Tenés miedo, perro (You’re scared, you bastard).” This continued for the next ten minutes until the truck finally stopped at a gas station in Las Flores in Lempira department. Espinal has reported this incident to the Dirreción General de Investigación Criminal (“DGIC”) in Gracias, Lempira department. The DGIC have enquired into the ownership of the pick-up involved in this incident, but no further details of the investigation are available at this time. [AMR 37/018/2003].
Marcelino and Leonardo Miranda continue to be held on charges of battery and murder. The Special Prosecutor of Ethnic Affairs has filed a lawsuit against several of the officers involved in the Miranda brothers’ arrest on charges of torture and abuse of authority, but there has thus far been no progress in this case. [AMR 37/016/2003].
Letter Written October 21, 2003