QCOSTARICA – Surprise, indignation and anger was the response among environmentalists, social organizations and politicians over the acquittal of the accused for the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval.
On Monday, the Tribunal de Juicio de Limón (Limón Criminal Court) absolved the seven defendants of all penalty and liability, due to mistakes made during the investigation of the case and breaking the chain of custody of several forensic tests.
Furthermore, as noted by environmental lawyer Alvaro Sagot, simple mistakes were made during the during the investigation of things that are taught in first year law school, such as how to listen to telephone conversations without the approval of a judge.
According to the criminal investigation, the motive behind the murder may have been revenge by a criminal gang for Jairo Mora reporting to police the gangs activity in the looting of turtle nests and assaulting people.
Mora was killed on May 31, 2013 by a group of masked men who ambushed the vehicle he used to patrol the beach of Moín, north of the city of Limón, in Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Mora received a blow to the head causing his death.
According to the police report, Mora was dragged for several hundred metres, but the Ministerio Público (Fiscalía) – Prosecutor’s office – only presented a photograph showing he was dragged 20 metres.
Judge Yolanda Alvarado, in the reading of the Court’s decision, blamed the poor quality of the investigation conducted by the Fiscalia and the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ).
Among the reactions was one by Paul Watson of the “Sea Shepherd” organization saying, “it is a sad day, very sad for justice in Costa Rica.”
Watson, who is wanted in Costa Rica for allegedly threatening poachers in Guatemala waters, wrote on this Facebook page:
It is not surprising that the seven men charged with the murder of Jairo Mora Sandoval have been acquitted. Evidence was conveniently lost and the court made numerous errors, and although these men clearly are responsible for killing Jairo, they get to walk, although four of them will serve time for rape and robbery of tourists on the same beach. All seven were acquitted of murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery involving Jairo Mora Sandoval and the volunteer women turtle conservationists working with him.
It appears that rape and robbery of tourists is a more serious concern that rape, kidnapping murder and robbery from turtle protectors. After all tourism is an industry and the conservationists are in the way of development and the illegal drug trade.
Again this verdict not surprising from a country where not a single murderer of conservationist or environmentalist have ever been convicted. Not surprising where interference with illegal fishing and shark finning is considered a more serious crime than murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery.
Costa Rica is still trying to extradite me for stopping a shark finning operation in Guatemalan water. They have spared no expense or effort to have me extradited. These men were arrested only after a major stink was made by environmentalist around the world including myself. In fact the day after the murder a minister in the government declared that Jairo’s death was accidental despite the fact that he was beaten to death on the beach.
Jairo Mora Sandoval has been martyred for the cause of conservation in Costa Rica. He died defending the turtles on Moins (sic) beach. He is in my opinion the greatest conservation hero in the history of Costa Rica and the system has failed him and it did so because of corruption and politics. The narco-poachers have won again, not surprising – they have the money, the power and the ruthless determination to advance their greed at all costs.
It is a sad, sad day for the good people of Costa Rica. I am disgusted and angry. The future for turtles, for sharks and other species in Costa Rica does not look promising.
Monday afternoon the Fiscalía said it would be appealing the decision.