Three held over murder of another environmental activist in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran police have arrested three men for the murder of Lesbia Urquia, an environmental activist who fought against hydroelectric and mining projects on indigenous lands in the Central American country, authorities said on Wednesday.

A woman shows a photo of Lesbia Yaneth Urquia, member of the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations (COPINH), after a mass, in Marcala, Honduras, July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Urquia, a colleague of slain Honduran activist Berta Caceres, was found dead with wounds to her head a week ago in the town of Marcala, 62 miles (100 km) west of Tegucigalpa.

“Three men suspected of the crime have been arrested, including a brother-in-law of the deceased,” said Jorge Galindo, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

The brother-in-law, Manuel Lopez, had threatened to kill Urquia, 49, over a family dispute involving property and was suspected of hiring the other two men to carry out the crime, Galindo said.

It was not immediately clear if there was a lawyer who could speak on Lopez’s behalf.

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), where Urquia had worked since 2009, insisted that her death was linked to powerful mining companies.

Caceres, another activist and indigenous leader of the COPINH, was murdered in March.

Authorities have arrested five people for the murder of Caceres, including an employee from a company behind a hydroelectric dam project she helped block. The company said it had no connection to Caceres’ murder.

“Like the case of Berta Caceres, authorities said (Urquia’s murder) had first been because of a robbery and then attributed it to a crime of passion,” COPINH leader Lilian Martinez said.

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Natalie Schachar; Editing by Tom Brown