Honduran inmate who linked president's brother to drug deals killed

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - An alleged drug dealer with knowledge of drug shipments involving a brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez convicted this month for drug trafficking, was killed on Saturday in prison, his lawyer said.

Magdaleno Meza, who had been in the El Pozo prison since June 2018 on charges of money laundering, was shot dead during a fight between inmates of the facility, the deputy director of the national penal authority, German McNiel, told reporters.

Meza’s lawyer, Carlos Chajtur, told Reuters his client was attacked by two armed men trying to stop him from talking about the information about drug deals he had in several notebooks in case he was called to testify in the United States.

Security camera footage purportedly of the killing published by Honduran newspaper El Heraldo showed a man being shot and then repeatedly stabbed by a group of men inside the prison some 100 miles (160 km) northwest of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Politician Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez was found guilty of U.S. drug trafficking charges on Oct. 18 after a two-week trial that featured accusations of corruption against his brother, president Juan Orlando, who denied the allegations.

During the U.S. trial, a witness testified that Tony Hernandez promised now-captive Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman protection for his shipments in exchange for a $1 million donation to his brother’s 2013 presidential campaign.

Juan Orlando Hernandez has not been charged with any crime.

Authorities seized the notebooks from Meza when he was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of narcotics trafficking. The notebooks had information linking Tony Hernandez to drug deals, according to documents from the attorney general’s office.

Chajtur said the notebooks were used in evidence at the trial of Tony Hernandez, and that the information therein also contained coded references to Juan Orlando Hernandez.

The lawyer said he had made repeated requests that Meza client be transferred to a more high security location due to threats that were made against his life.

“We never got an answer to our requests, which makes us think the government was involved in this act,” he said.

The president’s office had no immediate comment.

Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Dave Graham and Sandra Maler