By Colin Perkel
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO -A former security guard for a Canadian-owned mining company accused of killing an indigenous activist and leaving another paralyzed will have to face a new murder trial, an appeal court in Guatemala has ruled.
The ruling against Mynor Padilla, who was initially acquitted of murder and aggravated assault in April, comes amid an ongoing landmark lawsuit against Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals in Canada.
Padilla was charged in the 2009 death of Adolfo Ich and in the shooting of German Chub, who was left paralyzed at a Hudbay-owned mine.
Ich’s widow, Angelica Choc, was relieved and heartened by the appeal court decision, said Murray Klippenstein, one of her Toronto lawyers, in a statement on Friday. The acquittal in April occurred despite “damning eyewitness testimony” about the murder as well as ballistic and forensic evidence linking Padilla and other security staff to the shooting, Klippenstein said.
The killing and shooting are key parts of an ongoing lawsuit Choc, Chub and 11 other indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi launched against Hudbay Minerals in Canada. The claims have received global attention as a precedent for holding multinational mining companies liable in their home countries for alleged abuses at mines operated abroad.
Hudbay Minerals spokesman Scott Brubacher said Friday the guilty verdict appeared to have been reversed on procedural grounds, but the appeal court refused a prosecution request to substitute a guilty verdict.
The company has previously expressed its belief that Padilla was innocent. It has also insisted it was being falsely accused of displaying a pattern of human-rights and environmental abuses, and the claims against it were without merit.
Padilla, a former ranking member of the Guatemalan military, was arrested almost three years after Ich’s death even though a warrant for his arrest was issued soon after. He remained on the payroll of Hudbay’s Guatemalan subsidiary until he was taken into custody. It took another three years for a trial that lasted a further two years and from which the public and media were mostly barred, ostensibly for security reasons.
The prosecution argued Ich’s killing was an assassination, citing forensic evidence he had been attacked with a machete and shot in the head at close range.
The lawsuit against Hudbay Minerals alleges shootings and gang rapes occurred at a mining project once owned by the company. An Ontario court ruled in 2013 the suit could proceed.
Klippenstein called the new Guatemalan decision “extremely good” for the plaintiffs. He said their lawyers have been going through about 17,000 internal Hudbay documents the courts in Canada ordered disclosed to the plaintiffs.
Examinations for discovery were expected to begin in the coming weeks, while several Guatemalans will be coming to Canada in November to be questioned by Hudbay’s lawyers, Klippenstein said.