Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Former president boosted by ruling

Demonstrators are arrested during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (AP)

A supreme court judge has dismissed three arrest warrants for former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, allowing him to return without detention to the country where he was deposed in a June 2009 coup.

Justice Oscar Chinchilla's ruling did not dismiss corruption charges that were levied against Mr Zelaya, who was whisked to Costa Rica in his pyjamas by the military after he ignored court orders to drop a referendum on changing the constitution.

Mr Zelaya's lawyer Anahim Orrellana said that although his client could return and remain free, he is not happy with the ruling because it let stand charges that Mr Zelaya calls political.

"We want the charges to be dropped," Mr Orrellana said in a press conference. He has three days to consider an appeal.

Mr Zelaya, who was in Guatemala on Friday for a meeting of the Central American Parliament, an organisation of former presidents, could not be reached for comment about the court ruling.

But earlier in the day, he said he still couldn't return to Honduras because of "remnants of the coup and because I have legal issues to resolve".

The warrants were issued a month after Mr Zelaya was deposed. The former president faced seven charges, including abuse of power and treason, five of which were dropped when Congress in January 2010 passed an amnesty covering certain acts leading up to the coup.

His defence argued that Mr Zelaya should not be prosecuted because his right to due process was violated when he was physically removed from office and from the country.

Mr Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras in September 2009, only to be holed up for the rest of the year in the Brazilian Embassy, where Honduran authorities shut off lights and water for a time and soldiers waited to arrest him.

Current President Porfirio Lobo won a previously scheduled presidential election later in 2009 and allowed Mr Zelaya to leave the country upon taking office in January 2010, when Mr Zelaya's term expired. Even without the coup, Mr Zelaya could not have run for re-election.

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