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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exiled Honduran president wins court ruling for return

A SUPREME court judge has dismissed three arrest warrants against the former Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, allowing him to return to the country where he was deposed in a coup d'etat.

Justice Oscar Chinchilla's ruling did not dismiss corruption charges against Zelaya, 58, who was whisked to Costa Rica in his pyjamas by the military in June 2009 after he ignored court orders to drop a referendum on changing the constitution.

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 which Zelaya claims are politically motivated.

"We want the charges to be dropped," Orrellana said. He has three days to consider lodging an appeal.

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

But last week 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 originally issued a month after 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.

The remaining charges involve fraud and falsifying documents to withdraw some $3 million in cash.

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

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 cut the power and water supply for a time and soldiers waited to arrest him.

Current president, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, 63, won a previously scheduled presidential election later in 2009.

He then allowed Zelaya to leave the country on taking office in January 2010, when Zelaya's term expired.

Even without the coup, Zelaya could not have run for re-election.

Zelaya, who does not recognise Lobo's government, has vowed to return to Honduras this year.

Lobo also has said he wants a legal solution that would allow Zelaya to return.

By Freddy Cuevas



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