Marcelo Soza contradicts official version of hotel raid that led to Michael Dwyer’s death

Serious questions around lawfulness of police operation, says former prosecutor

Michael Dwyer: he was unarmed when shot in his hotel room in the city of Santa Cruz on April 16th, 2009. Photograph:  PA Wire

Michael Dwyer: he was unarmed when shot in his hotel room in the city of Santa Cruz on April 16th, 2009. Photograph: PA Wire

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 01:00

There are serious questions concerning the lawfulness of the Bolivian police operation in which Michael Dwyer was shot dead, according to the former public prosecutor who investigated the circumstances surrounding the Co Tipperary man’s death.

In an interview with The Irish Times from his exile in Brazil that contradicts government claims and casts doubts on the authorities’ version of events, Marcelo Soza said Mr Dwyer was unarmed when shot in his hotel room in the city of Santa Cruz in April 16th, 2009: “There was no gun near Dwyer when they killed him.”

In charge of investigating the case for four years, Mr Soza says ballistic and autopsy reports as well as his own survey of the aftermath made clear that “there was no confrontation in the hotel,” and a shoot-out had not taken place.

In a damning indictment of the Bolivian authorities’ conduct, Mr Soza accused top officials of misrepresenting the nature of the police raid and then manipulating his own investigation into it until he was eventually forced to seek asylum in Brazil in March.

Bolivia’s government has always claimed Dwyer was in Bolivia as part of a group led by Bolivian adventurer Eduardo Rózsa-Flores that planned to assassinate President Morales and foment a secessionist war in the country’s eastern lowlands. Dwyer, Rózsa-Flores and Hungarian national Arpad Magyarosi were all killed during the raid in which two other men were arrested.

Untrue

Mr Soza insists the government’s claim that police chased Dwyer’s group to the hotel after it started a terror campaign in eastern Bolivia is untrue, saying the raid had been carefully planned in La Paz and that he had seen a video of the police unit involved practising on a mock-up of the Hotel Las Americas.

“There was no chase to the hotel,” he insists. “It was not necessary to carry out the raid. They could have been captured at any time. They walked the street, they frequented bars . . . Why not arrest them on the street?”

This evidence of planning is crucial to understanding the case, according to Mr Soza, as he had been appointed to lead the investigation in Rózsa-Flores’ activities in Bolivia two days before the police operation took place. Therefore, under Bolivian law the authorities should have notified him of their plan to raid the hotel.

“I was only told after the operation took place, even though I was already in charge of the case,” he notes, adding that the failure to have the prosecutor in charge of the case present at the raid meant all evidence collected during it was “illegal”, a claim with possibly serious legal ramifications for the trial of 39 men accused of involvement with Rózsa-Flores.