Honduras' Top Court to Hear Case Against Military

Monday, January 11, 2010

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Honduras' Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a request by the chief prosecutor to charge the country's top military commanders with abuse of power for sending President Manuel Zelaya into exile.

The court said in a statement that it has asked the six members of the Joint Chief of Staff to attend a hearing Thursday. Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera will hear the case before deciding how to proceed, the statement said.

The prosecutor's case doesn't question Zelaya's ouster itself, only whether the military went too far in flying the ousted leader to Costa Rica after he was arrested by armed soldiers in a dispute over a constitutional referendum.

It is unlikely the court will charge the officers. 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 the court's orders to drop his plan for the referendum on changing the constitution.

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

Last week, Honduras' chief prosecutor, Luis Alberto Rubi, asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants charging the top military commanders with abuse of power for sending Zelaya out of the country -- but not for removing him from office in the June 28 coup. The charge carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Those named by the prosecutor include the head of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vasquez, and five other top-ranking military officers, including the air force chief, Gen. Javier Prince, and the navy commander, Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez.

Zelaya, who has taken refuge in the Brazilian Embassy since sneaking back into Honduras on Sept. 21, said that approving an amnesty would be another way ''to deceive the world, which condemns my ouster.''

''Whose idea was it to present this initiative (for an amnesty)?'' Zelaya asked in an interview with Radio Globo. ''It didn't come from the international community, like Lobo claims. That is not true.''

Honduran lawmakers were scheduled to discuss the amnesty Tuesday.